Exotic Animal Paradise to close
STRAFFORD, Mo. (AP) – After three decades as a landmark roadside attraction, a drive-through animal park on Interstate 44 east of Springfield will close October 1 to become the latest housing development in the fast-growing region.
The 500-acre Exotic Animal Paradise, founded in 1971 by Pat Jones, the father of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, is ranked by the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau among the top four tourist draws in the immediate Springfield area, with around 190,000 visitors a year.
Owner Ron Armitage, 59, said Thursday he had accepted a multimillion-dollar offer from Lake of the Ozarks area developer Tony Oddo as land development along the interstate between Springfield and Marshfield is starting to boom.
The park’s 1,500 animals, including lions, tigers, bears and giraffes, will be auctioned off.
Selling was inevitable, Armitage said.
“The cost of operating this facility is right at a million dollars a year,” Armitage said. “Those costs continue to increase.”
Armitage said he was caught between increasing ticket prices and a 5 percent to 6 percent decline in the number of visitors in the past couple years.
And government animal-welfare regulations added paperwork and expenses to the operation, he said.
Armitage said updating the four-mile tour road and doing other work in 2005 was a million-dollar project.
Vehicle occupants can see and hand-feed 70 species of animals along the way.
For the cats,
Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
an Educational Sanctuary home
to more than 100 big cats
12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625
813.493.4564 fax 885.4457
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