AKRON, Ohio — Doug Piekarz is ready to have people back at the Akron Zoo. The CEO and President of the city staple knows summer is the peak season at the zoo. For the last three months, the zoo has been empty.
"There was nobody here," he said. "Nobody."
The zoo's doors closed temporarily on March 17. But, on June 1, Governor Mike DeWine gave zoos in the state the go-ahead to open again. On June 17, the zoo will open to the public again.
"We are confident that we are the safest outdoor venue that anyone can come and visit at this point in time," Piekarz said. All of the outdoor exhibits are open but there are some changes. The indoor exhibits, like lemurs and bats, are closed. The slide inside the otter exhibit is also shuttered.
But, Piekarz said the biggest change is ticketing.
"For our guests and for our members, you do need to go online before you come to the zoo and purchase your timed tickets," he said.
Right now, there is no way to buy a ticket at the zoo. He said tickets are for time slots and only 200 people will be allowed in every 30 minutes.
The zoo has been working with the Summit County Department of Health to figure out how the zoo can safely operate.
"(We will) limit the number of people inside the park at one time to 1,500 people," he said.
That will cut the capacity of the zoo by more than half every day.
There are stickers and chalk markers on the ground to show people a six-foot distance. The zoo is keeping winter hours (11 a.m.-4 p.m.) and charging winter ticket prices ($8).
There is information for guests on the zoo's website. On the site, the zoo asks:
Even Akron Zoo members must have tickets to enter the park. Member tickets are available online.
Please pay attention to the date and time you are purchasing. No rescheduling of times or dates is available.
- Entry will only be available during your time slot. Early or late admission cannot be allowed.
- Tickets are available for purchase up to two weeks in advance.
- Tickets are non-transferable and non-refundable.
- Tickets sales end at 3 p.m. each day.
- Last time frame for entrance into the zoo is 3:30 p.m.
- Guests who are vulnerable to COVID-19 will be able to visit during special times on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30 - 11 a.m., beginning June 18.
- Please do not arrive at the zoo more than 10 minutes before your time slot begins. You must stay in your vehicle until your time period begins. If you come into the Welcome Center before your time period, you will be asked to return to your vehicle.