Kansas City's Science City receives $1 million donation

Friday, February 25, 2011 | 3:01 p.m. CST; updated 5:00 p.m. CST, Friday, February 25, 2011

KANSAS CITY — A Kansas City engineering firm has announced plans to donate about $1 million as well as expertise to Science City at Union Station, a gift that is expected to boost the draw of the struggling attraction.

The gift from the Burns & McDonnell Foundation, to be announced Friday, is the largest investment in Science City since it opened in 1999, according to The Kansas City Star.

Union Station Chairman Michael Haverty said the gift will significantly improve Science City and be a catalyst for additional enhancements. Union Station has struggled financially for years but ended 2010 with an operational surplus for the first time.

"There have been patches and Band-Aids put on Science City over the years," Haverty said. "This is the first major infusion. This is a big deal."

The gift from Burns & McDonnell will include $400,000 to fund new exhibits in Science City with a technology, engineering or math focus, and $350,000 to buy a Science on a Sphere exhibit, which is a 6-foot-diameter globe on which moving weather patterns and other planetary dynamics can be projected. The exhibit was developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"We need to make sure that citizens of our metro don't think they have to go to St. Louis or Chicago to see a great science center," said Greg Graves, president and CEO of Burns & McDonnell.

Burns & McDonnell will also donate its engineering expertise to help revitalize Science City. Graves said his company believes strongly in cultivating an interest in science among young people.

In the beginning, Science City was expected to sustain operations of the former train depot. But that never happened. Attendance fell from 558,000 in 2000 to 212,000 in 2006 and has since been fairly stable.

Parents magazine in 2008 ranked Science City among the top 25 science centers for young children in the country. A popular addition was the DinoLab, where visitors can watch a team of paleontologists and educators work with real fossils.

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