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OPINION: Jazz at the Zoo no longer at the Zoo | Arts & Culture

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OPINION: Jazz at the Zoo no longer at the Zoo
OPINION: Jazz at the Zoo no longer at the Zoo

I for one, was really disappointed to hear that Jazz at the Zoo is moving downtown to the Ah-Nab-Awen Park this year. I loved the atmosphere at John Ball Park at the old band shell.

No matter how hot it was when I left home for the concerts, soon after arriving at the Zoo and getting settled, along came a breeze and the shade from the big, beautiful trees only added to the enjoyment.

I wrote an e-mail to the Jazz Society and below is the answer I received from Donna at that address. As much as I appreciate her reply and explanation it really won’t do much for me when Jazz at the Zoo time comes along.



Sorry to hear of your disappointment. Parking should not be that difficult, maybe you will change your mind. I wanted to share this with you. We really weren't presented with any other choice. Here are the points from our meeting with the Zoo people. I hope it helps you understand why we were forced to make this change. This is from the zoo people:

  1. “Several years ago we decided to no longer rent the band shell space”.   The most pressing issues have to do with having clarity at the zoo entrance and separating pedestrian traffic from automobile traffic.  Events at the band shell “interfere” with zoo entrance.  (Understand that their bread and butter visitor is a 24 year old mom walking with a stroller and 2 tykes).
  2. Last year WMJS was only 1 of 4 groups to use the band shell space.  Like WMJS, they operated when the zoo was not active, in their case in the morning.
  3. The cost of rental would be raised 75%
  4.  The Zoo considers that a reasonable fee and won’t come down.
  5. They want a “better and safer” load-in and load-out policy for bands and vendors.  They have expectations that band members would drop their stuff off and park in regular spaces, not close to where they load & unload.
  6. Liquor license:  It would not affect anyone seated in the lawn area, but would prohibit people on the balcony from drinking alcohol.

To really grasp this all, you should know about the zoo’s 25 year expansion plan.  If you’re interested, you can do a search to find layout renderings, a nice article in the business journal. Using artist renderings, they spent a long time sharing their growth plans.  As stated earlier, parking and safe walking are big issues.  Recognize that the zoo is landlocked.  Appreciate that they’re thinking of an outdoor amphitheater south and east of where we now stage events, and facing southwest so minimize noise distraction for folks on Valley Ave.  That won’t come for perhaps 5 more years, but – as an issue not directly related to said amphitheater – the area adjacent to the band shell will convert to parking, perhaps as early as 2017.  So, the writing was clearly on the wall, and it was time for WMJS to find a new summer home.

We are very enthusiastic and supportive of their ambitions, and expressed gratitude for our 14-year opportunity at the zoo and the comfort of our working relationship.  They are excited for our venture downtown.  We had a very amicable separation meeting, and there is a good chance that they may call us when the amphitheater is staged.