May 22, 2002
SCIENCE CENTERS AND ADRIAEN'S LANDING
By: Joseph R. Holstead, Research Analyst
You asked for information about the success of science centers and progress on the proposed science center attraction at Adriaen's Landing. Specifically, you asked about the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey and the Forth Worth Museum of Science and History.
The Capital City Economic Development Authority (CCEDA) hired Lord Cultural Resources Planning and Management to research the possibilities for a cultural attraction at Adriaen's Landing. In December 2000, Lord issued a Phase I report that, among other things, found that science center attractions are the most successful in the museums marketplace. It took this conclusion from a 1989 report, the latest, from the American Association of Museums. The Lord report concluded that a state-of-the art science/technology center would be the best cultural attraction option to draw visitors at Adriaen's Landing given their general success and (1) 1998 attendance figures from the Association of Science Technology Centers (ASTC), (2) success of other medium-sized cities' science centers, and (3) likely poor performance of other themed attractions. The Lord's Phase I report is available at the CCEDA website at:
Based on these findings, CCEDA is working to develop a science center that would feature a large format theater, planetarium, and Connecticut-themed entertainment. (It would not be a traditional science museum that features a permanent collection, requiring special staffing and maintenance. ) However, CCEDA project director Linda Johnson, stated that the science center option is under continuous analysis to determine its sustainability. Johnson noted the importance of realistic planning for the Hartford project and cited the Center of Science and Industry (COSI) in Columbus, Ohio that seems to have overestimated its drawing power when relocating in 1999, was built too big, and is consequently suffering financially. Lord was responsible for COSI's attendance estimates.
The Liberty Science Center (LSC) in Jersey City was created in the early 1990's to address concerns about science literacy among New Jersey's youth. A public-private partnership raised $ 68 million to construct it. But poor planning caused the LSC to run a $ 2 million per year deficit in its first few years of operation. This turned around in 1998 when the LSC and the state Education Department formed the Abbott Partnership Program. The partnership helped alleviate the initial financial difficulties by allowing the LSC to receive state grants in return for providing educational assistance to low-income students and their families. LSC has been successful in covering its costs and has operated in the black since 1998. Since it opened in January 1993, more than 6. 5 million guests have visited LSC. More information is available at LSC's website: http: //www. lsc. org/school_resources/partnership/history. html
The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History serves a metropolitan region of nearly 5 million and provides hundreds of programs aimed at engaging children and families. According to its website, the museum has welcomed over 1 million visitors annually since the mid-1980's, making it the most popular cultural attraction in North Texas. More information about Fort Worth Museum of Science and History is available at its website: www. fwmuseum. org/index. html
Linda Johnson, CCEDA's project director, was formerly vice president of the Fort Worth museum. She stated that the size of the Fort Worth's metropolitan area, along with the museum's extensive collection and history components, make it a poor comparison for the proposed Hartford project. Johnson suggested the LSC is better for comparison, as is the Great Lake Science Center in Cleveland and the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh (based on their size and location). Both of these centers have been successful in attracting visitors and are discussed below.
ADRIAEN'S LANDING CULTURAL ATTRACTION
Phase I Report
Developing a major cultural attraction is an important aspect of the Adriaen's Landing plan to bolster tourism. Lord Cultural Resources Planning and Management Inc. the consulting firm hired by the CCEDA to plan for that attraction, completed its phase I report in December 2000. The report found that the attraction must:
1. help economic development and downtown revitalization objectives,
2. offer a high level of entertainment value capable of attracting a substantial number of visitors and maximizing earned revenues, and
3. have strong educational mission and mandate so as to secure all available government grants and qualify as a not-for-profit.
Lord concluded that a state-of-the-art science center attraction would meet these criteria, drawing more people than one focused solely on another theme. The report considered three other themes: (1) dinosaurs, (2) the story of the Connecticut River Valley, and (3) sports. The possibility of combining themes nevertheless remains. For instance, a science/technology attraction could include dinosaurs and display exhibits related to the Connecticut River Valley, just as the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland uses a Great Lakes theme.
The Lord report specified that a science/technology attraction would have to present a dynamic, interactive experience to generate the necessary public interest. It could do so by drawing on research and contributions that Connecticut universities and businesses have and will make in the sciences and technology for exhibits, such as (1) DNA and genetics, (2) alternative energy sources, and (3) biochemistry and forensic sciences. The report also gives examples of high-action activities to entice visitors like real or virtual helicopter or submarine rides. (Lord concluded that a "routine" science center, one with a standing collection, for example, would not attract enough interest).
Lord reported that another advantage to the science/technology attraction option would be Connecticut industries' in-kind development of the exhibits related to their current research and development. This would serve the dual purpose of promoting these industries while advertising the state as a new home for such companies.
Lord defined the general resident market for the new attraction in downtown Hartford as the entire state of Connecticut, within which the Hartford Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) is considered the primary resident market. The Hartford MSA is comprised of Hartford, Middlesex, and Tolland Counties. CCEDA has estimated that a 120,000 to 150,00 square foot facility could be a sustainable enterprise. The facility's size would be based on the number of potential guests from Hartford's MSA and the region (including western Massachusetts), which is conservatively set at 450,000 to 500,000 visitors per year, according to Linda Johnson.
Johnson noted that the project's feasibility is continually being analyzed, and it will not be pursued if found to be unsustainable. Alternatively, she explained that the facility could grow if the project goes forward and eventually warrants it.
LIBERTY SCIENCE CENTER AND THE ABBOTT PARTNERSHIP
The Liberty Science Center opened in 1993. Various private and public enterprises started the center to improve students' performance and interest in science. During the first few years after the 160,000 square foot facility opened, it ran a $ 2 million per year deficit. This was due to poor planning (for example, prohibitive ticket prices prevented some local residents from attending), Connie Clayman, LSC vice president of finance and facilities, explained. According to Clayman, LSC looked to the state for financial assistance. The state agreed to work with LSC, but would not subsidize it.
LSC eventually developed a partnership with the Department of Education called the Abbott Partnership Program in which the state pays LSC to provide low-income students from underserved communities (known as Abbot Districts) with free entry to various educational programs (including an annual membership pass for these students). Serving students, teachers, and families of 30 Abbot Districts, nearly 270,000 children visited LSC during the past school year (nearly a quarter of the state's children). LSC features hundreds of hands-on exhibits and the nation's largest IMAX® Dome Theater.
GREAT LAKE SCIENCE CENTER (CLEVELAND, OH) AND CARNEGIE SCIENCE CENTER (PITTSBURGH, PA)
Great Lakes Science Center
The Great Lakes Science Center (GLSC) in Cleveland opened in 1996. Its 165,000 square foot indoor facility and 81,600 square foot outdoor and exhibit areas have become an educational resource and entertainment destination for Northern Ohio. Attendance reached three million in April 2001. The center has met or surpassed the goals established in its capital campaign Master Plan. It had operated in the black, exclusive of depreciation, for 14 consecutive quarters as of December 2000 and has continued to do so according to its development office.
The center's education programs, emphasizing "hands-on, minds on" learning, have served over 400,000 students, teachers, and chaperones attending grade-specific school tours. The center's Cleveland Clinic OMNIMAX® Theater has been very successful since opening, as has its Public Programs Department, which has performed over 17,500 demonstrations and shows involving more than 850,000 visitors. This level of activity is comparable to or exceeds other leading and more mature science museums.
The GLSC has recently embarked on a major endowment campaign. Through a leadership challenge grant of $ 5 million from The George Gund Foundation, GLSC hopes to secure matching funds of $ 7. 5 million over the next three to five years. More than $ 3. 5 million in matching funds have been committed toward this campaign.
More information is available at http: //www. glsc. org/index. php3.
Carnegie Science Center
The Carnegie Science Center, located in Pittsburgh, consists of approximately 204,000 square feet of space, with 72,000 square feet of interactive exhibits. It is devoted to public understanding of science and technology through hands-on exhibits, theater presentations, demonstrations, classes, workshops, science fairs, and special events.
Carnegie Science Center evolved from a 62-year-old institution known first as the Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science and later as the Buhl Science Center, which combined with the Carnegie Institute in 1989 to create the current facility, which began operating in October 1991. It features an Omnimax theatre; planetarium; laser shows; and the UPMC SportsWorks, the world's largest science and sport exhibition.
The center works closely with area universities, school districts, and businesses to promote science education and the latest technological advances developed in the region. Plans are underway for a 160,000-square-foot expansion and a Discovery Park, an outdoor recreation area. More information is available at: http: //www. carnegiesciencecenter. org/