Lincoln Park Zoo Stays Free Through 2050

July 18, 2019

Chilean flamingo in exhibit

Written By

Kevin J. Bell

President and CEO

Lincoln Park Zoo has been, and will always be, a magical place: a free oasis in the heart of Chicago, dedicated to connecting people to nature and creating environments where wildlife can thrive.

For 127 years, the zoo was managed by the Chicago Park District and operated under the City of Chicago’s budget. In 1995, the zoo privatized and has depended on the generosity of individual donors, members, and volunteers since that time. While much has changed in the zoo’s 151-year history, one thing hasn’t: strong support from the City, Chicago Park District, and Chicagoans.

In 1878, the Lincoln Park commissioners declared the zoo must always remain free, and that is a promise the zoo plans to keep for many years to come. With the public-private partnership, the city provided a contract with fixed financial support, about half the zoo’s operating budget at the time. Today, Lincoln Park Zoo is proud to support more than 80 percent of its operating and capital costs and continues to remain free thanks primarily to our generous supporters, event-goers, and guests.

With the first contract nearing a close, in 2017 the zoo began conversations with the City to discuss future support. We are happy to report the zoo and City have extended the terms through 2050, providing the zoo critical support for ongoing initiatives and zoo management—and to help keep the zoo free. We are incredibly grateful to the City and its residents for their unwavering support for this Chicago landmark.

The zoo is also indebted to our Women’s Board and Auxiliary Board for their commitment to the zoo. This year, the Auxiliary Board’s annual Zoo-ologie event raised more than $170,000, and this last weekend, the Women’s Board annual Zoo Ball raised nearly $1 million toward The Pride of Chicago capital campaign.

Whether you buy a soda at the new Bird’s Eye Bar & Grill, purchase a souvenir at the recently renovated Gift Shop, or simply walk through our gates or along Nature Boardwalk, you are helping to support wildlife conservation and a historic institution.

Thank you, Chicago.

Kevin J. Bell
President and CEO
Lincoln Park Zoo