The Health Adventure Center gained the support of the Convention and Visitors Advisory Board Monday to receive $250,000 in funding from a city tax on lodging.
In making its recommendation to the Columbia City Council, the convention and visitors board also will ask the council to wait until there is a public hearing on the Attraction Development Committee’s recommendations before reviewing or voting on the request to help finance development of a health center in the former Federal Building on Cherry Street.
Jim Ritter, chairman of the Health Center Board, said the recommendation from the convention and visistors board is important to the project. “We’re extremely pleased that the CVB has made the recommendation to the city council, and it’ll mean a great deal to us as we continue to raise funds for our project,” Ritter said.
Lorah Steiner, executive director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the Attraction Development Committee, which began meeting in November 2003, was formed to oversee the distribution of money from the lodging tax as part of the bureau’s master plan update. Before the money can be distributed, however, the committee will gather public input and then provide their recommendation to the city council for approval. Once the council reviews the committee’s recommendations, it will consider the convention and visitor board’s recommendations, Steiner said.
The Health Adventure Center has raised about half of the $7.1 million it needs, Ritter said. A donation of $750,000 from Boone Hospital Center and its operator, BJC HealthCare, are in hand along with a $1 million donation from Dr. Ira Hubbell and his wife, Gail. Ritter said the board has applied to foundations and continues to receive private donations.
The center plans an interactive health museum, including a “brain theater,” a body systems gallery and a nutrition gallery with a demonstration kitchen and food tastings. Internal construction for the center is set to be completed by October 2005 and a tentative grand opening is scheduled for October 2006, according to the proposal to the visitors bureau.
Steiner said the adventure center would be a cornerstone of the downtown renaissance that includes expansion and renovation of the Missouri Theatre and the Eighth Street beautification project. “Within the next two years, the whole look of downtown will change,” she said.
“We already have a wonderfully vibrant downtown, without a doubt one of the best downtowns for a city of our size, and adding museums and cultural offerings will enhance it so much,” Steiner said.