True to its name, the Greensboro Science Center is an experiment unto itself ... as in what would happen if you created a popular hometown attraction and never stopped improving it?
No sooner does one new attraction open at the combined museum and zoo in northwest Greensboro than it seems to be followed by another. And another. There always seems to be something bigger and better in the offing.
Most recently, the science center has begun work to add a Malayan tiger exhibit, a butterfly house and a carousel made of handcarved wooden animals.
Before that, there was the Skywild fitness course, where you can test your strength and agility among the treetops. And before that, the aquarium, stocked with denizens of the oceans, up close and, in some cases, touchable.
The science center’s chief executive officer, Glenn Dobrogosz, and his charges seem eternally committed to never rest on past successes. The fresh ideas keep coming. And so do the people. As the News & Record’s Kenwyn Caranna recently reported, the center has increased its annual attendance from 250,000 to 435,000 over the past 10 years. And a new study places the center’s annual economic impact at $77 million.
But, as always, there’s more. While Malayan tigers are cool, Malayan tigers that prowl above visitors on enclosed bridges would be cooler.
The center is also weaving its designs on expansion into a broader vision called the Battleground Parks District. The science center and its close neighbors, Country Park, Guilford Courthouse National Military Park, the Spencer Love Tennis Center, Lewis Recreation Center, the Atlantic & Yadkin Greenway and even Forest Lawn Cemetery, are now viewed as complementary pieces of a whole, that if effectively marketed, will be greater than the sum of its parks (sorry, we couldn’t resist).
Moving from one to the other already is like stepping from one room into another. So, the idea of the area as a major tourist attraction is entirely realistic, and to an extent, already exists.
But, when promoted with the additional drawing power of a parks district, the science center could attract between 750,000 to 1 million annual visitors, according to a study conducted by Sage Policy Group Inc. of Baltimore.
Of course, there is a cost. To finance further expansion, the science center hopes to ask city voters to approve $25 million to $30 million in bonds in 2020 or 2021. Those see-through bridges for the Malayan tigers would be one of the features that money would buy. It’s not a small ask. But the science center has been a consistent “yes” for voters over the years. That’s probably because it has been a model steward of public money. For instance, the center matched the $20 million it received in bond financing in 2009 100%. And it has a reputation for spending carefully and stretching resources.
One valid concern that some readers have expressed in writing is how much expansion is enough and how much is too much? Part of the magic of parks is quiet spaces, so the concept of managed growth applies to science centers as well.
But there’s no questioning the inventiveness and boundless energy of the center’s leadership. What wild imaginations they have.