John Ball Zoo



American Rescue Plan Act funding

John Ball Zoo is a regional destination and a critical economic driver for Kent County and West Michigan is seeking American Rescue Plan Act funding to support key infrastructure projects that will directly benefit West Michigan residents and businesses. The Zoo is currently the most attended cultural attraction outside of Detroit in the state, helping to pump millions of dollars into local county restaurants, hotels and other businesses.

These two projects will expand John Ball Zoo’s ability to attract tourism from outside the county and state, create a world-class park and expand the Zoo’s ability to provide quality, engaging education opportunities to students on sustainability, animal care and conservation.

These two projects complete John Ball Park’s master plan ahead of schedule, bringing this new and exciting investment to Kent County sooner and accelerating the economic benefits felt by the region.

ADDITIONAL GUESTS PER YEAR: up to 300,000 additional guests per year (zoo and park)

CONSTRUCTION ECONOMIC IMPACT: $162 million of new economic activity in Kent County, 833 new jobs, $12.5 million increase in local and state tax revenues

ONGOING ECONOMIC IMPACT: $12.5 million in new economic activity each year, 108 new jobs, $1.7 million increase in local and state tax revenues

John Ball Zoo is requesting the county to fund 50% of the total $100 million in projects, including:

Project 1: John Ball Zoo Expansion & Park Amenities

This exciting project expands the zoo to the south, adds a one-of-a-kind African Exhibit and completes the John Ball Zoo master plan and parking projects to allow for more visitors, growth and access.

The African Expansion includes:

  • Giraffes, including public feeding experiences
  • Three additional African species
  • Pathways to support future African habitats
  • Restrooms
  • Walk-up concessions

John Ball Park Project

The John Ball park project will elevate the overall neighborhood and community experience along with the guest experience before and after visiting the zoo, with the inclusion of the following enhancements:

  • Reflective sculpture garden
  • Manicured flowing gardens around the fountain
  • Entrance Road west relocated to allow for pedestrian walking and sitting areas around the fountain free of all vehicle traffic
  • Biking and walking pathways with connectivity to Kent County
  • Bike stations
  • Two picnic pavilions
  • Additional park restrooms
  • Completion of new expanded bandshell to support music, community theatre and events
  • Athletic courts
  • Upgraded stormwater system
  • Expanded parking away from neighbors near Butterworth and the hill
  • Closure of zoo exit that exits into the neighborhood with new second entrance off Butterworth Street away from residential housing.

Project 2: Education Center & Front Entry Plaza

This project will allow for the building of a new education center, additional front entry habitats and new infrastructure to assist the zoo’s educational mission and maintain important county assets.

The 40,000-square-foot education center will provide:

  • Indoor and outdoor learning spaces
  • Large and small meeting rooms for educational and community meetings
  • Programmatic support for educational spaces, including classrooms, supplies and administrative support to connect students with world-class educational opportunities

Front entry plaza improvements will include:

  • Four unique animal habitats
  • Expanded guest services areas
  • New gift shop to support the Zoo’s current revenue potential and attract repeat visitors from West Michigan and beyond


By adding your name to our petition above, you can show the Kent County Board of Commissioners that you support John Ball Zoo’s request for American Rescue Plan Act funding because it will improve a beloved local attraction and provide economic activity for the county and beyond.