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Science Center on schedule to draw thousands downtown


The seating supports are in place inside the big IMAX theater, and workers are starting to close in the exterior walls as construction continues on the Science Center of Iowa downtown between Southwest Third and Fifth streets along the Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway extension. Despite a short labor strike earlier this year, Science Center spokespeople say the project is on schedule for an April 2005 opening.

The fund-raising effort continues. After a whirlwind beginning in 2001 that produced more than $40 million in three months, total commitments now stand at more than $50 million, according to Science Center Executive Director Mary Sellers. The target is $61.9 million. “We continue to talk to many individuals and every level of government” in the search for contributions, Sellers said.

Management expects a rush of visitors as soon as the museum opens and then an average of 300,000 visitors per year. The existing Science Center, tucked away in Greenwood Park, draws between 100,000 and 175,000 people every year.

When people walk into the new building, they’ll have 110,000 square feet to explore. That’s four times more than the current museum.

The IMAX theater, housed in a concrete cylinder 70 feet high, will seat 220 people. Its first film is to be announced Aug. 27. The building also will contain a 175-seat Science Adventure Theater for live presentations and a Star Theater that features a walk-through planetarium.

In the rest of the building, managers plan to change the exhibits frequently. “The last thing you want is for people to go three times and say, ‘Been there, done that,’” Sellers said. “We’ve learned from colleagues all over the country, and we designed an infrastructure that supports continuous change.” Channels built into the floor hold the key to that change, allowing easy access to utility cables.

Sellers said the Science Center also plans to “link up with scientists around the world” with fiber-optic connections in an Iowa Communications Network classroom. “We’re working on partnerships with other institutions – other science centers, universities, hospitals and more,” she said.

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