Ringling Bros. circus to close after 146 years

Posted at 10:24 PM, Jan 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-16 17:20:20-05

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will end "The Greatest Show on Earth" in May, following a 146-year run.

Kenneth Feld, the chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, which owns the circus, told The Associated Press declining attendance combined with high operating costs are among the reasons for closing.

Feld said when the company removed the elephants from the shows in May of 2016, ticket sales declined more dramatically than expected.

The company broke the news to circus employees Saturday night after shows in Orlando and Miami.

Ringling Bros. has two touring performances this season and will perform 30 shows between now and May. The final shows will be in Providence, Rhode Island, on May 7 and in Uniondale, New York, at the Nassau County Coliseum on May 21.

There was a steady stream of circus fans at the Ringling Museum in Sarasota on Sunday.  Many of them were sad about the news.

"I'm sad it's been in our life forever," said one circus fan.

Feld says there are more than 400 performers and employees who will be out of work due to the show closing. However, the parent company has pledged to help find "other opportunities" as well as resume and housing help.

As for the dozens of animals inside the show, Feld has promised to relocate each of the animals, which include lions, tigers, llamas and more. Feld Entertainment has also promised to pay for a lifetime of care.

Animal rights group aren't shedding any tears about the closure. PETA released a statement about the news.

"After 36 years of PETA protests which have awoken the world to the plight of animals in captivity, PETA heralds the end of what has been the saddest show on earth for wild animals, and asks all other animal circuses to follow suit, as this is a sign of changing times," said PETA President Ingrid Newkirk.

Feld entertainment held a news conference about the closure on Monday morning.