Local catering magnates donate $1 million to San Antonio Zoo expansion
While the animals at San Antonio Zoo have been snacking on their Halloween pumpkins (an attention-grabbing annual social media trend), the zoo has revealed plans to move forward with an expansion, thanks to a large new donation.
In a long post on X (formerly Twitter) on October 30, the zoo's operating nonprofit celebrated a $1 million gift, courtesy of the Greg Kowalski family. These longtime San Antonians have spent generations among the city's restaurant industry, and Greg Kowalski now owns The RK Group, known for its catering companies and presence at charitable events. Those include past fundraisers for the zoo.
The $1 million gift will go toward the zoo's $67 million master plan for expansion (according to a prior release), which includes a new entrance, a gorilla habitat, and an event center that can host 500 guests at once. The entrance will be the first finished piece open to the public, scheduled for December 1, 2023. A portion of the new event center, which is also in development, will be named after the Kowalski family.
"We are thrilled to support the San Antonio Zoo's transformative initiatives through this gift," said Greg Kowalski, as quoted in the zoo's social media post. "Our family is committed to helping San Antonio continue to thrive as a premier visitor destination and we're excited to join the zoo's vision to secure a future for wildlife and provide unparalleled experiences for generations to come."
The Greg Kowalski family presenting a ceremonial check.San Antonio Zoological Society/X
In 2023 (and a post-Tiger King world) many people have concerns about the ethics of zoos, and the San Antonio operation has garnered mixed reviews.
Much of the zoo's criticism was based on an old elephant named Lucky, who lived alone and, some claimed, in psychological distress. After a lawsuit, the zoo improved Lucky's enclosure and invited some friends to join her. Lucky died in 2022, but the zoo said it would bring elephants (note the plural) back. In 2017, during Lucky's lifetime, the zoo also received a certification from American Humane, declaring that it met "the highest standards of animal care." The zoo also centers much of its public messaging around conservation efforts.
"The Kowalski Family's remarkable generosity exemplifies their commitment to our city, its people, and the future of wildlife conservation," said President and CEO of San Antonio Zoo Tim Morrow. "We are deeply grateful for their investment in our ongoing efforts to create an exceptional guest experience and ensure the long-term sustainability of the zoo."