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Published: Monday, 6/29/2009

Toledo science center reinvents itself: COSI to be Imagination Station

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

When Toledo's science center reopens this fall, there will be a refreshed look, unique exhibits, and the promise of a brand new experience of fun and science - a station for the imagination, if you will.

Monday, museum officials will announce the name that will accompany that new adventure.

After sifting through more than 2,000 suggestions from the public, Imagination Station emerged as the top pick for the name of the science center formerly known as COSI.

With the promise of "Pure Science. Pure Fun," Imagination Station will open its doors in October to entice visitors with "the mystery and magic of science," said Robert Savage, chairman of the 20-member Create a Great Name Committee.

"We all need a great imagination: one to keep our sanity; two to keep life exciting," said Mr. Savage, who is also co-chairman on the science center's board of directors. "Even though it's in the same location, and will certainly have some of the same exhibits that will be freshened up, I can tell you that it will be a very different experience."

Situated along the Maumee River in downtown Toledo's former Portside Festival Marketplace, COSI closed because of budget constraints in December, 2007, after more than 10 years of operation. It was given new life in November when Lucas County voters approved a 0.17-mill, five-year levy after having turned down two previous requests.

The COSI name was dropped soon after the levy vote and organizers temporarily adopted the Toledo Science Center.

Imagination Station will include some COSI favorites
such as the high-wire bike as well as new exhibits. Imagination Station will include some COSI favorites such as the high-wire bike as well as new exhibits.
JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge

The COSI name - originally an acronym for the Center of Science and Industry - is owned by the Columbus science museum. Officials there several years ago began pressuring the Toledo center to either drop the name or pay usage fees.

In February, organizers sought public input for a new name and received thousands of suggestions. The winning name was submitted individually by 11 people.

Raymond Lopez of Holland was among them.

Only 5 years old, Ray had the help of his older sisters, Christina, 12, and Kaylee, 8, to turn his idea into a rhyme, mom Gina Lopez said. But coming from a family that enjoys science - mom is a veterinarian, Dad is a dentist - Ray had no trouble with inspiration.

"I like science. I like the bubble science, when you pulled the rope and the bubbles go above it," he said.

Mrs. Lopez said her family was disappointed when COSI shut down, so much so that the family traveled to Columbus to become members at the science museum there. But having a science center return to Toledo - and being a part of its rebirth - is even more thrilling, she said.

"This was named because they chose the name that my son, and of course my daughters, came up with," she said. "It's not just the corner drugstore to us. We're very much involved in doing science at home. It's really thrilling."

Although an exact opening date has not been set, organizers are working to reopen the museum's doors in October with the traveling exhibit, "The Science of the Circus."

Visitors can expect to see new exhibits interspersed with refurbished ones, museum Executive Director Lori Hauser said.

"You'll see a balance of your favorites. The high-wire cycle will be there and, yes, we'll have your hair stand on end, but we did an assessment of the exhibits and some have been taken out," Ms. Hauser said.

"We want to hear the kids' voices in the science center, and hear them laugh," she added. "We want to see it come to life again."

The levy is expected to generate about $1.5 million annually, with admission fees covering the majority of the center's remaining projected $3.5 million operating budget, organizers said. Passing the levy also unlocked $1 million in state funding for capital improvements.

About 25 full-time and 30 to 40 part-time positions are being filled, Ms. Hauser said.

"We need to operate as fiscally responsible as we can," she said. "We do need the support of taxpayers to keep the science center fresh and with new exhibits."

The budget anticipates at least 220,000 visitors a year. Although individual ticket prices have not yet been decided, Ms. Hauser said that Lucas County children, 12 years old and under, will be admitted to the museum on Saturdays for free when accompanied by an adult.

Once opened, Imagination Station will operate Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

"You need to have attractions that are destination points that people love to go to," Mr. Savage said. "It's our hope and it's a realistic expectation that people from all over will want to come to Toledo to the Imagination Station."

Information about the museum and jobs will be available at www.imaginationstationtoledo.org after today's 10:30 a.m. announcement.

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-213-2134.



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