Horton Numbers: A Statistical Analysis of Conference III’s Zoos

by J.R.

_BL_6891_slideNathan Horton did not pick a Conference III team.

Nathan Horton picked Columbus, which is not in Conference III.

Why did Natty Ho pick Columbus? Let’s ask him:

“They brought out all the baby animals. We got to see a big cheetah, they brought him out of the cage and it was pretty cool,” Horton said with a laugh. “Not too many people get to do that. It was really exciting; it was kind of scary at the same time.”

Dylan loves penguins. So the zoo brought one out so he could pet it. The family was won over.

“It was unbelievable,” Davidson said. “They brought a penguin out and the little guy was holding a penguin! I even went over and gave him a little pet.”

Are zoos the new market inefficiency? Do Conference III’s zoos match up with Columbus’? How can they improve?

III Communication’s crack stats team is on the case.


jack-hanna-2-400x268We have established five factors for our Horton Number:

  • Species — How many different species does the zoo have?
  • Visits per year — How many times could a standard Nathan Horton making $5.3 million per year visit the zoo, assuming he visits (full adult admission) with his two sons (one aged 5, the other 15 months) and pays for parking? Summer admission is used if the zoo has different prices throughout the year.
  • Penguins — Does the zoo have at least one penguin?
  • Cheetahs — Does the zoo have at least one cheetah?
  • Yelp Score — How do visitors rate the zoo?

columbus-zoo-aquarium-logoEach of these five factors will be rated relative to the Columbus Zoo, using these publicly available numbers:

  • Species — 680
  • Visits per year — Adult Admission: $15. Child admission: $10. Child under two: Free. Parking: $8. Total of $33. 160,606 visits/year.
  • Penguins — Yes
  • Cheetahs — Yes
  • Yelp Score — 4.5 stars

For each zoo, each factor will be scaled relative to Columbus — because we know the Columbus Zoo meets Horton’s standard. The scale for species, visits per year and Yelp score will be multiplied by two, with one point awarded if the zoo has penguins and another point awarded for cheetahs. Therefore, the Columbus Zoo and any zoo with identical parameters to Columbus will have a Horton Number of 8.

A hypothetical zoo with 340 species, doubly expensive as Columbus, with a Yelp score of 2.25 and with penguins but no cheetahs will have a Horton Number of 4.

And to satisfy the “Do you even watch the zoos, dude?” crew, we’ll include a random comment about each zoo and we’ll learn if Nathan Horton would sign with your team.


Brookfield-zooThe Brookfield Zoo – We will use the Brookfield Zoo for this analysis instead of the Lincoln Park Zoo. While the latter is entirely within Chicago’s city limits, Brookfield is operated by “The Chicago Zoological Society” and the baseline zoo — the Columbus Zoo — is actually in Powell.

Species — 450 (0.662 of Columbus)

Visits Per Year Adult Admission: $15. Child admission: $10.50 Child under two: Free. Parking: $10. Total of $35.50. 149,295 visits/year. (0.93 of Columbus)

Penguins — Yes!

Cheetahs — No. Not here either.

Yelp Score — 4 Stars. (0.889 of Columbus)

Random Yelp Review: “I really like this zoo. My parents have been members for years, and they have a lot of perks–all of their grandbabies (all six of them!) are free when we all go together. They get so many free passes per year for other people, the dolphin show, the dino exhibit, the Family Play Zoo, etc. The talks that they have about the animals every once in a while are really cute. The parking is $10 for non-members which is a little steep. The dolphin show wasn’t really all that good the other day, sadly 😦 They didn’t do many tricks, and the ones that they did do didn’t go as planned. And I understand that this happens, but it just wasn’t worth the $4/ per person price tag, then. Also, the food is RIDICULOUSLY expensive. For six adults to eat (not even the five kids we had with us) it was $70 for the meals and that’s WITH my mom’s 10% off membership. And my husband’s hot dog was inedible, so he didn’t take more than one bite. NOT worth it–pack a lunch! But the animals are cute, the exhibits are informative, and there are really great picture opportunities! This is our go-to zoo, and we will definitely be back (with a sack lunch!!)” — Michelle F. of Shaumberg

Horton Number: (0.662*2)+(0.93*2)+1+0+(0.889*2)=5.962


denver-zoo-logoThe Denver Zoo – Located on 80 acres in City Park, the Denver Zoo was founded in 1896 and remains one of the Mile High City’s top tourist destinations.

Species — 700 (1.029 of Columbus)

Visits Per Year Adult Admission: $15. Child admission: $10 Child under two: Free. Parking: Free. Total of $25. 212,000 visits/year. (1.320 of Columbus)

Penguins — Yes!

Cheetahs — Yes!

Yelp Score — 4 Stars. (0.889 of Columbus)

Random Yelp Review: “Going to the Denver Zoo on a free day: Yay!
Going when it’s 6 degrees and snowy outside: No way!
Surprise! The animals don’t like the cold either so you won’t see many out in the winter months. Except for those scary looking mountain rams. They’ll stand there and stare you down. The big bears will be out too, but they might just be pacing back and forth in a concerning pattern than being cute. Nonetheless, the zoo is a good size that will keep you occupied for a few hours on a nice weather day. Otherwise, though the crowds will be few, you’ll be power-walking to every exhibit and then hiding inside the indoor theatre looking at the reptiles and waiting for your body to thaw out!” — Anita C. of Austin, Tex.

Horton Number: (1.029*2)+(1.320*2)+1+1+(0.889*2)=8.476


dallas_zoo_001-132996The Dallas Zoo – Three miles south of downtown, the Dallas Zoo is located on 106 acres in Marsalis Park. There is also a zoo in Ft. Worth that I don’t care about.

Species — 430 (0.632 of Columbus)

Visits Per Year Adult Admission: $12. Child admission: $9 Child under two: Free. Parking: $8. Total of $29. 182,758 visits/year. (1.138 of Columbus)

Penguins — Yes!

Cheetahs — Yes!

Yelp Score — 4 Stars. (0.889 of Columbus)

Random Yelp Review: “Lots of folks told us to skip this zoo and stick to the one in Fort Worth…and I guess on the whole Fort Worth is better, but the Dallas Zoo is still worth a vist. It has some points that I prefer to FW even. The little monorail safari is nice, I like the food options better, and you have a better lion viewing experience. The petting zoo area is way nicer. Loove the koala exhibit and the tiger exhibit. Stay away from the Lorikeets, though. It was like a scene from the Birds…and they attacked our heads…one bit my wife’s ear so hard it bled.” — Jonny S. of Lewisville

Horton Number: (0.632*2)+(1.138*2)+1+1+(0.889*2)=7.318


img6200959Como Park Zoo & Conservatory – In St. Paul, Como Park opened in 1873, with Como Park Zoo opening in 1897. It’s currently sitting on 17 acres.

Species — 66 (0.097 of Columbus)

Visits Per Year Como Park Zoo does not have an admission price, but has suggested donation of $3 per adult and $2 per child, a total of $7. Parking is free. 757,142 visits per year (4.714 of Columbus).

Penguins — Yes!

Cheetahs — Nope.

Yelp Score — 4 Stars. (0.889 of Columbus)

Random Yelp Review: “Free! Yeah you get to see animals for free! Thats an automatic 4 stars. I love the turtles, the giraffes, the monkeys and everything in between. Only downside is that is very crowded on certain days and a bit trashy in certain areas…but its free, I’m not going to complain. The Conservatory is a must-see. Lush, wild, humid, and just stunning. And the Japanese Garden? Surreal, beautiful, and very peaceful. I felt like I was in Japan for 20 minutes. All free. Definite 4 stars..” — Bea V. of Minneapolis

Horton Number: (0.097*2)+(4.714*2)+1+0+(0.889*2)=12.4


126Nashville Zoo at Grassmere – Sitting on 200 acres on the site of an old family farm, the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere was founded as a merger between the creepy old Nashville Zoo in Joelton and the Grassmere Wildlife Park. There was also this really cute baby lynx and then she died.

Species — 400 (0.588 of Columbus)

Visits Per Year Adult Admission: $15. Child Admission: $10. Child under two: Free. Parking: $5. Total of $30. 176,666 visits per year (1.1 of Columbus).

Penguins — No.

Cheetahs — Nope.

Yelp Score — 4 Stars. (0.889 of Columbus)

Random Yelp Review: “Being from Toronto Ontario, I have visited the zoo there (Metro Toronto Zoo) many a times. That zoo is probably 4x the size and has many more animals, but this little zoo blows our zoo out of the water. All the animals were happy and healthy. The exhibits were clean and big with lots of enrichment for the animals to enjoy. The pavilions were very educational and all the aquatic life and reptiles were happy and healthy. This is a perfect example of what zoo’s should look like. The path ways were clean and wide, with lots of places to sit and rest. The bamboo forest was amazing. The price was a little high, but they are using the money to keep their animals well fed and happy so I don’t care. The staff in the gift shop were young and a little unprofessional. They were arguing and bickering in front of customers. If you are in the area, I highly recommend visiting here!!” — Jessie C. of Ottawa, Canada. Suck on that, Canada!

Horton Number: (0.588*2)+(1.1*2)+0+0+(0.889*2)=5.154

St. Louis

zooSaint Louis Zoo – Founded in 1904 after a gift from the World’s Fair of a bird exhibit, the Saint Louis Zoo is on 90 acres in Forest Park.

Species — 655 (0.963 of Columbus)

Visits Per Year Adult Admission: Free. Child Admission: Free. Child under two: Free. Parking: $15. Total of $30. 353,333 visits per year (2.2 of Columbus).

Penguins — Yep!

Cheetahs — Yes.

Yelp Score — 4.5 Stars. (1.0 of Columbus)

Random Yelp Review: “Being from Columbus (home of the #1 US zoo) I have high expectations for my zoos. This zoo is simply wonderful. Of course everyone raves that it’s free, but I’d be willing to pay to attend. The penguin display is my favorite part and much better than Columbus. We happily stumbled in right at feeding time and it was cuteness overload watching them waddle around. There are certain displays like the zebras and giraffes where you can see the animals more up close and personal. The sea lion show is absolutely worth the few dollars. Overall a great, smaller, zoo with a ton of attractions. Yes, parking is horrible. Deal with the extra walk and park in Dogtown. Just not on my street.” — Mollie N. of St. Louis (via Columbus?)

Horton Number: (0.963*2)+(2.2*2)+1+1+(1.0*2)=10.326


Assiniboine_Park_Zoo_Winnipeg_Manitoba_Canada_1Assiniboine Park Zoo – Founded in 1904 — which was apparently a big year for zoos — the Assiniboine Park Zoo got a boost in 1956 with the founding of the Zoological Society of Manitoba.

Species — 152 (0.224 of Columbus)

Visits Per Year Prices are converted to US dollars using 1 Canadian=0.95 American. Adult Admission: $8.04. Child Admission: $5.20. Child under two: Free. Parking:$Free. Total of $13.24. 400,302 visits per year (2.492 of Columbus).

Penguins — Nope.

Cheetahs — No.

Yelp Score — 2 stars. (0.444 of Columbus)

Random Yelp Review: “Oh geez. I was expecting much more than this. My friends and I still had a really good time, but mostly because we were being complete jackasses. It was pretty empty because we went on a Tuesday afternoon. I don’t just mean people. There were almost zero animals in any of the habitats. We saw a variety of big cats, deer and birds. That was pretty much it, and there were a minimal amount of those to begin with. On a bizarre note, they seemed to have started decorating for Halloween. So half the park had really random shitty Halloween decorations placed along the walking paths. That, and a lot of those face-in-a-hole things that you take lame photos of your friends in… and we sure did! Because there were more of those in the park than any actual animals! I liked the peacocks that were roaming the park, the fake alligator (no real ones?) and the hilarious male lion that tried to attack an offensively ugly baby stroller through the glass barrier. I wouldn’t say NEVER come here, but.. don’t expect too much” — Nicole F. of Vancouver

Horton Number: (0.224*2)+(2.492*2)+0+0+(0.444*2)=6.32

Final Conclusions

Here are the final rankings of Conference III by Horton Number (plus the Columbus baseline):

  1. Minnesota — 12.4
  2. St. Louis — 10.326
  3. Denver — 8.476
  4. Columbus — 8
  5. Dallas — 7.318
  6. Winnipeg — 6.32
  7. Chicago — 5.962
  8. Nashville — 5.154

The Horton Number, perhaps, over-values…well, value. That explains the high rankings for the free or near-free zoos in Minnesota and St. Louis. Of course, working parents sure can appreciate good, cheap family fun!

The relative homogeneity of the Yelp scores made that input more or less a wash, except for the truly low-rated Winnipeg. As with any newly-developed metric, it can be tweaked over time.

Yesterday, Dave Lozo took a lot of bluster from Predators fans for his suggestion that Nashville is not a destination for free agents (Dave, by the way, is joining me on 102.5 The Game sometime during the 6 PM hour; click the “Listen Live” link here). At least we know why now — a low Horton Number.