Board members of Imagination Station announced Sunday night the formation of a "Science Society" whose member donations would pay for big-draw attractions for the downtown Toledo science center.
Robert Savage, a vice chairman of the center's board, said the goal is to further raise the quality of the exhibits and visitor experience and ultimately inspire more youngsters to pursue careers in science and math.
"We want to entice young people to fall in love with the wonderments of science and math," Mr. Savage said to a group of about 50 potential donors during a presentation and cocktail party in the center's ground level. "We hope to get you excited about something that can really be transformative.
Known as COSI from 1997 to 2007, the science center reopened with a new name in October, 2009, and more than $2 million worth of renovations and new exhibits.
The rebirth was possible after Lucas County voters passed a first-ever 0.17-mill, five-year levy in the fall of 2008. Voters had turned down two previous requests, and the center closed because of budget constraints. The measure was expected to raise more than $1.25 million annually.
Board members said the Science Society's donations will strictly go toward new exhibits for the building - not for salaries or operating expenses.
Although levy proceeds already allow the center to host traveling exhibits and update its installations, the society has its eyes on exhibits of a much grander scale than are now possible, Mr. Savage said. Possibilities include the "Mummies of the World" exhibit, the world's largest traveling show of "accidental and intentional" mummies that costs about $200,000 to stage.
Other options: the hair-raising "Bridge of Fire" static electricity installation ($100,000), an "air vortex cannon" that shoots powerful blasts across a room, and a cast replica of the world's second-most-complete Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton.
Science Society memberships will begin at $2,500 for the "silver" level and rise through the $15,000 "diamond" level, said James Hoffman, a vice chairman of the science center's board, and president of KeyBank in northwest Ohio.
Mr. Savage said he hopes the society can raise more than $100,000 a year.
Board members have begun reaching out to the region's engineering and medical communities for their support.
"We're expecting to put together a pot of money that can get meaningful things done," said Mr. Savage.
The Science Society was modeled upon the Toledo Museum of Art's Apollo Society, whose private member donations help the museum acquire new artwork.
More than 240,000 people have visited Imagination Station since the reopening, said Lori Hauser, its executive director.
The annual operating budget is about $2.8 million. The science center building along the Maumee River housed Portside Festival Marketplace from 1984 to 1990.
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