FOBIA  Friends of Belle Isle Aquarium

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WWJ Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick interview
Hosted by Vicki Thomas

October 12, 2005

Listen To WWJ Aquarium segment - MP3 file

Listeners Question: " What are the mayoral candidates intentions with regard to the Belle Isle Aquarium?"

Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick claims:

  • Claim:The Aquarium was not compliant with regulations for handicapped access.
    FOBIA Response: The ADA compliancy issues are actually remarkably easy to remedy and are far less difficult than the ADA compliancy issues relating to the Royal Oak Zoo facility, which also must be remedied.
    FOBIA has found the resources necessary to tackle this problem.
  • Claim: The Roof needs fixing and will be prohibitively expensive to fix
    FOBIA Response: There are significant looming capital costs associated with the building. The reason for this is an appalling lack of support by the Zoo administration in the past decade. The roofing problem does exist, and has existed for at least ten years. A complete re-roofing will need to be done in the near future, at an estimated cost of $250,000. (FOBIA had an estimate done.) This year, the zoo allocated $2,000 to repair roof leaks. Hardly the kind of support a major historical facility should be receiving.
  • Claim: The Aquarium costs $800,000.00 a year to run and only brings in $180,000,00
    FOBIA Response: Actually, the Aquarium costs $530,000.00 to operate and last year brought in $138,000.00
    That means it operates at $393,000.00
    Furthermore, like the Zoo, it is a historical city institution for the enjoyment of the public and not a profit-making venture. The Royal Oak Zoo does not make a profit for the City of Detroit either, and in this case there is not even the spin-off to local Detroit restaurants and services.
  • Claim: We must move forward and build a new Aquarium.
    FOBIA Response: In 1989 there were 17 'Super-aquariums' in the United States. This figure has since doubled to 36 aquariums. There are twenty more being constructed.
    You have to consider the law of diminishing returns. Tourists are not likely to be jetting into Detroit exclusively to see the aquarium. Consequently, The burden of maintenance will fall upon the Detroit tax payer, to the tune of $20,000,000 a year.
    Few Detroit families will be able to afford the $20.00 per person admission fee that will be necessary to keep the aquarium solvent.
    Did you know that only two aquariums actually break even? The rest have to be subsidized. Kagan's impact study is based on one of the two aquariums that are not subsidized.
    In contrast, the cost of maintaining the Belle Isle Aquarium is a mere fraction of these larger, newer aquariums and is easily within the budget margins of Detroit's shrinking population and tax-base.

    It seems unlikely that a new super-aquarium would be built in Detroit anyway. Zoo director Ron Kagan's actions are synonymous with someone who is following the money: Close down the Detroit-based institutions that are affiliated with the Royal Oak Zoo ( Belle Isle Zoo, Belle Isle Aquarium, Belle Isle Deer ) and court the more Detroit's elaborately more affluent neighbor,
    Oakland County.
    The Royal Oak Zoo employees are quietly being transferred from the City of Detroit to the Zoological Society, making the transfer of the Zoo that much easier.

  • Go to Freman Hendrix interview
  • See Also FOBIA's FAQ