Skyrocketing Construction Costs Are Endangering An In-Progress Zoo Overhaul

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Waco, Texas builders feel the heat of post-pandemic materials and labor price hikes. But perhaps no job site feels the pain more than the Cameron Park Zoo, a non-profit that relies on fundraising to expand. The zoo began construction with financing in place—prices spun out of control.

“If you ask anyone doing a construction project in the United States right now, you need a crystal ball every day because things are changing so much,” said Terri Cox, Executive Director, Cameron Park Zoological and Botanical Society. “It’s very frustrating.”

Two major zoo projects stand in the balance; the enormous financial burdens might leave them half-built.

“Once again, the COVID pandemic has dealt us a blow,” Cox said to zoo supporters in a ‘Giving Tuesday’ email. “Post-pandemic construction costs have been affected by supply chain interruption, increased material costs, labor costs, and local market disruption.”

“What we’re seeing is significant cost increase as we are in the design and building phase of the different components of the expansion project,” said Cox. “For example, the original expectations for the hoofstock barn was $375,000, and it actually came in at over $900,000.”

In 2019 the total cost for the zoo was funded by a $14.6 million bond which passed with 66% of the vote.

“At this point, it’s impossible for us to say exactly how much the expansion project costs have gone up be because we’re in the design phase for the education and veterinary complex, and we are also working on hiring architects for the penguin exhibit, so we don’t have a clear dollar amount until we go to bid,” said Cox. “It could potentially be several million over.”

After a push for donations on Giving Tuesday, the zoo said it raised more than $150,000. And a Christmas special event, Wild Lights, will have all proceeds going to the zoo’s building fund. But the cost might be more than they can bear.

“We’ll know more about what the actual costs are when they go to bid,” said Cox. “We can’t wait until the last minute; I have to start early on my end and try to get people involved and give a little more.”

The Cameron Park Zoo, located in Waco, Texas, hopes to secure funds to finish two major expansion projects in the midst of post-covid materials and labor price hikes.

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