SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Sacramento leaders are weighing in on a proposed plan to move the Sacramento Zoo to the site of the former Sleep Train Arena.
It’s a story CBS13 first covered on Friday night. The grand plan would bring wildlife to the Sleep Train site in the form of a safari-themed wildlife center.
It’s renewing excitement in the Natomas neighborhood where Sacramento City Councilwoman Angelique Ashby has been working to bring business back to this once bustling venue.
“The reaction is huge,” Ashby said.
She has pressed Kings owners to bring something big back to Natomas to restore the arena dollars lost to downtown. The Kings owners own the old arena that has sat empty since 2016.
“The obvious two steps are: where are the Kings on this, because they’re the land owners, or at least a partner on the land-owning out there. And the second: how would we fund it.” Ashby said.
Zoo Executive Director Jason Jacobs says a first phase to build the proposed zoo could cost between $120 million and $150 million. It’s a project city hall would need to find funding for.
Mayor Darrel Steinberg issued a statement reading:
An iconic wildlife park has the potential to be another great destination for Sacramento. While there’s a lot of work ahead to develop a solid finance plan, the idea deserves a full exploration.
The proposed zoo on the 180-acre Sleep Train site would dwarf the current zoo’s 14-acre Land Park location. Renderings include pictures of a drive-thru African safari, a hotel, and a hippo habitat.
“I have said from the very beginning this isn’t a race to see what we get first, it’s a race to get what we get that’s best,” Ashby said. “I think the zoo checks a lot of boxes.”
Ashby says she believes the zoo’s board of directors will likely have to take some action moving the plan forward before it gets to city hall. The board is not scheduled to meet for the rest of the year.
Back in April, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums sent a letter to Jacobs, granting accreditation to the Sacramento Zoo. But they wrote “…we are concerned that unless significant renovations, replacements and modern improvements are made to a number of facilities over the coming five-year accreditation cycle, AZA accreditation may not be achievable when the Sacramento Zoo next applies.”