Thursday, October 19, 2006

More Science Station Lessons for Pella

The Gazette had another page one headline about Cedar Rapids' failing Science Station this morning (October 19). Janet Rorholm, "A Plea for Help; Support Urged to Keep Debt-Ridden C.R. Science Station Open," The Gazette, October 19, 2006, p. 1A.

(For yesterday's story see Nicholas Johnson, "Science Station Lessons for Pella," October 18, 2006, with its links to
Janet Rorholm, Debt Dooms C.R. Science Station; Center, IMAX Theater to Close Nov. 15 Unless 'Sizable' Bailout Spares Them," October 18, 2006, p. A1, and State29, "IMAX Theater in Cedar Rapids Creates a Lot of IDEBT," October 18. 2006.)

From it, I would simply highlight the following quotes:

"Attendance has declined steadily since the IMAX theater opened in 2001.

"The Science Station has run at an operational loss for two years, losing $350,000 in fiscal 2004-05 and $150,000 in fiscal 2005-06, which ended Sept. 30.

"Because of failed pledges and inadequate fundraising, the Science Station had to take out a loan, which it has not been able to repay, placing it at risk of foreclosure.

"Hastings said optimistically high attendance projections for the theater were part of the problem."

It's just a reaffirmation of the points from yesterday we hope the good folks of Pella note and take into consideration in their plans for the Pella rain forest:

(1) "Optimistically high attendance projections" are the rule rather than the exception from the enthusiastic cheerleaders and promoters of new community projects.

(2) Whatever the realistic, actual, attendance numbers may be the odds are very good that they will "decline steadily" after the attraction opens.

(3) It's tough to keep any edu-tainment attraction from running "at an operational loss." If a significant fraction of those who wax eloquent regarding the joys and importance of symphonies, ballet, art museums, science centers (and rain forests!) would actually attend them once in awhile their attendance figures (and revenue) would more than eliminate these "operational losses."

(4) Many attractions experience having to "
take out a loan, which it has not been able to repay, placing it at risk of foreclosure." Think about it, Pella. Closing the Science Station is one thing. Other uses can be found for the building. But what do you do with a rotting rain forest, and a drained aquarium filled with dead fish, inside a 200-foot structure? As with Iraq, so with a rain forest -- whether real or fake -- before you enter into it you best have "an exit strategy." What's yours?

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