Risky Business: A Feasibility Case Study of Magnetic Hill Zoo

Lion resting head on fence


All investments carry risk. The key to sustained success is identifying which risks are worth taking. Magnetic Hill Zoo (Moncton, New Brunswick), a CAZA-accredited zoo nestled in the rolling hills of scenic Atlantic Canada, was considering a major investment in a significant expansion to its footprint: a large new habitat-area representing the African zoogeographic zone.

Based on our extensive track record of conducting feasibility studies for zoos and aquariums worldwide, Zoo Advisors was engaged to assess the project’s capital and operating feasibility, in essence determining: (1) whether it could generate enough new revenue to offset its expenses; and (2) what it would cost to construct.


Zoo Advisors designed a multi-phased approach with long-time partner firm WDM Architects (Wichita, KS). Our first task was to work with the Zoo to refine existing high-level concepts for the project into specific, quantifiable components and phases. We accomplished this during a multi-day site visit with stakeholders including Zoo staff and local officials—city managers for culture, environment, and tourism.

Next, we created a detailed historical model of the Zoo’s operations, layering demographic data to contextualize the visitation within the regional market. The custom unified model demonstrated the Zoo’s recent 5-year operating history and surfaced correlations between operating areas.

Utilizing our proprietary dataset of historical zoo operations, we identified a group of facilities to create a benchmark of comparable zoos and markets. With the project phases as our timeline, we transformed the historical model into a projection that showed, in detail, how every new aspect of the project impacted the Zoo’s operations in upcoming years. Concurrently, WDM Architects provided the capital and structural estimates.


Zoo Advisors and WDM Architects’ work revealed that the proposed project was operationally feasible, as well as a detailed, phased capital estimate to turn the project into a reality. Next steps are a public unveiling of the findings, to be presented by Zoo Advisors and Magnetic Hill Zoo to its stakeholders, media, and public.

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Dr. Frederick Lahodny

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