Science Central Expansion In The Works?

According to a request made by Science Central to the Legacy Fund Task Force, the center would like to expand into current unused space in their facility. I personally think this is a wonderful idea, and a perfect example of a project community money should be spent on.  I remember taking field trips, and occasionally a weekend family outing there when I was a kid.  It was a wonderful magical place, I was always extremely excited for an opportunity to go there. Visiting again two years ago, It was nostalgic but also somewhat of a disappointment that it hasn’t received the attention that it deserves.

This should be a top notch facility for our entire region to benefit from, which I don’t want to go so far to say that it isn’t…..but it wouldn’t hurt to re-think it’s current assets and bring it into 2012 and beyond. This will take cash, cash the city now has.  So what is a mere $7 Million? Frankly it’s a lot of money, but let’s see a proposal on what they can do with that $7 Million and go from there.

In addition, this project along with the almost completed MLK bridge and possible indoor farmers market (recommended for Lawton Park) could turn vision of a developed north river property across the street into a development in high demand surround by new energy.  Check out the proposal below…

Proposal Summary
Concept/Project Title:
Science Central Expansion
Brief Description: Science Central respectfully requests that $7 million be used for development of the unused portion of the City Light and Power Building.

Proposal Description:
Science Central requests the use of $7 million from the Community Trust Fund for demolition and construction work to the west half of the building. Science Central is located in the 70,000- square foot old City Light and Power building, the generator of Fort Wayne’s electrical power from the 1930’s through the 1970’s, and the source of the $38 million Community Trust Fund. When Science Central opened 15 years ago, only half the building was fully developed into the interactive science center. The remaining half, while partially used for storage, is still in its original raw format and not currently suitable for gallery, classroom and exhibit space or safe for visitor use without significant demolition and construction work. The request for funds would allow for the preparation of the unused side of City Light and Power, so that it becomes a visitor- ready environment. Then, as funding is obtained for specific projects and exhibits relating to our Exhibits Master Plan, expansion into that space could commence without the preliminary preparation costs.

Fort Wayne Benefit:

Science Central recently approved a three-year Strategic Plan and is currently initiating a Master Plan for future exhibits. This Plan will incorporate new exhibit galleries, classroom and demonstration spaces, educational laboratories, and theater experiences in the West Side of the building. These expansion projects allow for greater marketing and membership opportunities, more exhibit space for a greater number of visitors, additional partnership opportunities with other science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) organizations, and the need for filling more science center jobs from the local community.

A number of studies in the science center field have shown that with expansion projects there is greater City-exposure on a regional level, an increase in overall visitation, and a stronger educational depth and breadth for the community. In addition, other studies in the field have

shown that while overall budget and operating costs go up with expansion projects, the actual operating cost-per-visitor and cost-per-square-foot goes down. Expansion into the unused west side could include a planetarium, observatory, hi-def theater, interactive Great Lakes watershed aquarium, additional classrooms, interactive laboratories, immersion theaters, and another traveling exhibitions gallery, to name a few.

Science Central is committed to developing a scientifically-literate population. Science Central is the second-most-visited museum-type attraction in the City; one of the primary cultural attractions in the City; the premier informal STEM-education facility in the City; the only science center in the region; and, the only science center in Indiana that does not self-identify as one for children, but rather one for the entire population.

We are continuously evaluating visitation trends through a variety of methods. Research shows that the primary audience is Fort Wayne and Allen County. Cultural impact shows that multiple generations visit together, and younger generations come back as they have become adults. Discussions with local school districts’ teachers and administrators provides evidence that visiting students have a stronger understanding of classroom science content, and informal communications with many community members indicates that their children have gone into STEM college programs and careers due to participating in Science Central programs.

Science Central’s impact on Fort Wayne is measured in other ways, as well. Based upon the analysis of our zip code visitation and the Convention and Visitor Bureau’s (VisitFortWayne) visitor values, our out-of-town visitors contribute an economic impact of approximately $1 million per year to the local economy. Long-term impact includes components such as the large number of teacher workshops that we do each year, helping them to educate the next generation. As a cultural facility, Science Central is a significant part of the City’s efforts to attract new businesses and residents. Finally, with a payroll of approximately 50 full-, part-time, and seasonal employees, Science Central provides jobs to a wide spectrum of low- to highly- skilled and educated Fort Wayne residents.

Catalytic Investment:

As a museum-type attraction, Science Central is a financial asset to the City, capable of drawing new and partnering with existing investment projects. We are at one of the signature gateways to and from downtown; an extension of the downtown>Headwaters Park>Skateboard Park>Lawton Park corridor; an active of numerous downtown development projects, festivals and special events; an involved participant in downtown groups such as DID, museum partnerships, VisitFortWayne, and the City of Fort Wayne; and, viewed as a strategic anchor for future development of the OmniSource site into the North River Project.

Leverage Additional Resources:

Approximately 46% of the budget is earned income from admissions, programs, memberships, Gift Shop, etc. The remaining funding comes from donations and grants. Costs and values of the demolition and construction work would be leveraged as match as required for a significant number of grants, thereby increasing the value.

Previous Community Plans:

Science Central carefully analyzed the Vision 2020 Goals and the matching Legacy Fort Wayne Impact Areas, and found clear connections with 3 of the 5:

21st Century Talent. We are assisting the current generation and preparing the next generation to be a scientifically literate society through the numerous pre- and in-service teacher

workshops; school students on field trips; general public visitors and family programs; and, special groups such as scouts and science camp attendees.

Economic Development. Science Central is a significant component of the local revenue stream through the tourist dollars spent by our visitors while in Fort Wayne; providing an entertainment venue as a reason for individuals to move to Fort Wayne; and, providing a cultural value for businesses to stay in Fort Wayne or companies to move their headquarters here.

Quality of Life. City of Fort Wayne studies have shown that this community need is right behind “Jobs” and Science Central support this as evidenced by our increased attendance over the past two years; strategic new partnerships with other local museums and on-site partnership with IPFW’s high school science outreach program; and, educational products shared with schools, at community events, and through local television, radio and newspaper media.


90% of U.S. science centers get annual public support, and on average this amounts to nearly 30% of their annual budgets. Science Central receives 0%. In addition, other local informal education attractions receive operational funding or salary support from public funds. Science Central does not receive funding in this manner.

Science Central occupies the City Light and Power plant, which is the source of the current $38 million Community Trust Fund. And, Science Central uses a significant portion of its budget for repairs, maintenance, insurance, utilities and staffing associated with maintaining the old City Light and Power building, rather than on its mission of exhibits and programs.

As an active participant in and Governing member of the Association of Science – Technology Centers (ASTC), Science Central regularly participates in numerous studies and analyses. These studies have helped guide current strategic initiatives.

In 2008, we initiated an analysis by IPFW to determine the demolition and construction costs needed to get the west side of the building up to code, ready for exhibit projects, and safe for visitor use. Armed with original and revised blue prints of the building, architecturals from the Science Central project, information about east side use and operating costs, IPFW determined that $7 million would be needed to prepare the space for future expansion projects.

The Science Central Board of Directors and staff analyzed the needs of the organization and impact on the community, and determined that for long-term strategic growth, educational impact in the region, and economic support of the City, additional space for growth and expansion is needed. We have seen significant success from all of the new permanent exhibits and temporary exhibitions that have opened in the past three years. They have produced increased visitation, more marketing opportunities, and improved finances. Science Central has seen special event days with over 2,000 visitors.

Numerous elected officials (City, County and State) and community leaders (academic institutions, corporations, foundations and civic organizations) are knowledgeable about Science Central’s lack of annual public support. It is also well-known that Science Central has made significant impact in Fort Wayne for the past 15 years. A proven track record is indicative that even greater impact could be made with expanded facilities. As the current occupant of City Light and Power, many of these leaders have stated that Science Central should be the recipient of Community Trust Fund monies, a funding source formed from activities of the City Light and Power plant.


Categories: Entertainment, Headwaters Junction, Headwaters Park, Legacy Fund, RIver North, Riverfront Development

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