Within a month, officials with the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium should know if now is the time to put a hotel or resort on the zoo's property.

Within a month, officials with the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium should know if now is the time to put a hotel or resort on the zoo's property.

The Delaware County commissioners on May 28 approved $10,000 to help pay for a study on the feasibility of building a proposed on-site hotel. The money is coming from a revolving loan fund from grant money received through the Community Development Block Grant program. Block grants help increase the economic base of the county or increase employment opportunities, said commission vice president Ken O'Brien.

"This is an excellent time for the zoo," said retired zoo director Jerry Borin. The feasibility study is the "first step to see if it makes sense" to build a hotel now.

If it does, he said, the hotel can be sited within the zoo's master plan now "in the right spot," rather than later when that right spot may have been used for something else.

"If we can pull this off, I think we can do something pretty exciting," he said.

The zoo is in Delaware County, which receives sales tax collected at the zoo and would receive any bed tax money collected from a future hotel.

"This will bring more jobs to Delaware County which will benefit the county and Liberty Township (where the zoo is located)," O'Brien said. "This is exactly what the grant was meant for."

"Obviously a project like the proposed hotel is a wonderful thing for Delaware County and the Columbus Zoo," said commissioner Todd Hanks.

Zoo director Jeff Swanagan said he hopes the study will prove a hotel is needed now, but the zoo will not proceed with the plan if it doesn't make economic sense.

Swanagan said a number of things led the zoo board to do the feasibility study now.

When Zoombezi Bay opened last summer, zoo officials noticed a large number of out-of-state license plates on vehicles in the parking lot and a significant number of two-day passes being sold, he said.

Attendance figures continue to rise, he said. Last year, the zoo had 1.845-million visitors and expects to break 2-million this year, thanks in part to the recent birth of Beco, the baby elephant. The number of visitors in 2009 is running well ahead of the same time period last year -- 471,306 as of May 20 compared to 318,253 on May 20, 2008.

The zoo hired David Sangree with Hotel & Leisure Advisors in Cleveland to do the study.

Also at the meeting, the commissioners passed a resolution honoring Borin for his 23 years of leadership at the zoo and declaring May 28 Jerry Borin and Columbus Zoological Park Day in Delaware County.

With Borin to accept the honor were members of the zoo staff and several animals, including a cheetah and sheep dog.