By Shirin Rajaee

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – The Sacramento Zoo continues to look for a new home amid threats of losing its accreditation.

Now there’s a brand new idea set to be presented at Sacramento City Council Tuesday night that could generate money to transform the huge vacant space into a regional attraction

Brandy Tuzon-Boyd is part of a group trying to move Sacramento’s zoo to the old Sleep Train Arena site in Natomas – a site that has sat now empty for so long, it’s been overgrown with weeds.

“Our community was master planned around the old arena, and we deserve an economic engine, something that will create jobs,” said Boyd.

She’s excited about the new proposal that could potentially generate money for the re-location.

“If you think about Sleep Train Arena, it used to get 16,000 people there for a concert or a basketball game. Well, on a peak day, the zoo might get 16,000 people,” said Jason Jacobs, director of the Sacramento Zoo.

Last year, zoo officials announced they needed a larger site to keep national accreditation – and unveiled detailed drawings of what a state of the art facility could look like.

“This is the African lodge it overlooks lions, giraffes, zebras, rhinos – huge areas for the animals,” said Jacobs.

Without expanding, the zoo might have to close its large animal exhibits.

“The number of animals and species they have at the zoo is on the decline, they have lost over 50 species to other zoos because they don’t have the space or habitat,” said Boyd.

So how would this financing plan work?

Currently, anyone staying in a hotel pays a 12 percent tax that generates nearly $26 million a year – with money currently going towards civic projects, like the convention center and public art.

But Natomas is seeing a hotel building boom. There are currently six hotels in the neighborhood, with another eight on the way. This plan would allow the new hotel taxes to go towards redeveloping the vacant Sleep Train Arena with a destination site, like a new zoo.

Supporters say it’s a way to pay for a new zoo without Sacramento taxpayers footing the bill.

“We want a zoo,” Boyd said.

In May, the city paid $150,000 for a zoo expansion and relocation study. Those results should be released by the end of the year.

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