Truckee’s KidZone Museum looking at new multimillion-dollar building | SierraSun.com

Truckee’s KidZone Museum looking at new multimillion-dollar building

Margaret Moran
mmoran@sierrasun.com

TRUCKEE, Calif. — Having outgrown its existing location due to popularity among locals and visitors, Truckee's KidZone Museum is looking at constructing a larger building to accommodate increased visitation.

Since 2002, KidZone has occupied a 3,000-square-foot structure at 11711 Donner Pass Road, between Truckee High School and the Family Resource Center of Truckee, providing children a place to learn through creative play and discovery.

"We just don't have the space," said Carol Meagher, executive director of the KidZone Museum. "We needed a building yesterday. The building we're in now was built as a temporary structure."

Prior to the nonprofit moving into its current location, KidZone experienced on average 5,000 visits annually, which has grown to about 23,000 visits in recent years, she said.

Due to fire codes, only a maximum of 60 people, including staff, can be in the building at one time, Meagher said, leading families to be asked during peak times to return later when crowds subside.

Based on current visitation, KidZone should be operating in a facility of at least 7,000 square feet, according to a study performed by Hansford Economic Consulting completed in June 1, 2015.

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In addition, the study predicts visits will increase to a range of 33,270 to 41,090 annually by 2035, requiring a 12,250-square-foot building and 4,000 square feet of outdoor play space.

Hansford estimates that a permanent building of that size will cost between $7.4 million to $9.8 million, excluding the cost of land.

While KidZone covers its annual operating budget of roughly $325,000 through grants, membership and program fees, donations, and events, the museum is unable to create a reserve or collect for a large capital project such as new building, according to the study.

Therefore, a new permanent building will require a major capital campaign.

FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN

Last month, the museum launched a Kickstarter campaign, with the goal of raising $5 million by Jan. 23, a date dictated by the crowdfunding company, Meagher said.

As of Tuesday morning, KidZone's Kickstarter campaign page shows that no money has been raised for a new, larger building.

"While we might not raise money, we'll raise awareness, which is the second most important thing," Meagher said regarding this Kickstarter campaign. "It gets the word out."

Despite the campaign listing a fundraising deadline of next week, Meagher said the museum will fundraise until all needed money is collected.

Further, while the feasibility study provides a cost estimate for the new building, it states a more robust estimation of capital costs is needed.

According to Hansford, it based its estimate on planning costs of other children's museums in the western United States, as outlined in other studies.

One major cost variable is land, Meagher said, given a property's lease or acquisition cost, existing electrical and plumping infrastructure — or lack thereof — and slope.

"What we are looking for is a very affordable lease option or gratuitous land options," Meagher said. "I am confident we will find an affordable land option."

According to the Hansford study, children museums are generally located next to or near complimentary activities such as railroad or natural history museums, libraries or performing art centers.

Other items the study encourages in site consideration include visibility, access to public transportation and ease of overall location access.

THREE POTENTIAL LOCATIONS

Based on all that, KidZone is pursuing three optimal sites, Meagher said:

1. Property within the Truckee Railyard project.

2. The McIver Dairy site, should it become available for community use.

3. Non-aeronautical designated property with the Truckee Tahoe Airport District.

Looking ahead, once land is secured, KidZone will be able to calculate a more exact cost estimate to build a 12,250-square-foot museum — and in turn, a fundraising goal, Meagher said.

The KidZone is working on developing a capital campaign, she said, which will likely involve securing funds from new and existing donors and grants.

The nonprofit hopes to have all necessary funds raised and the new building constructed in five years, she said.

More space will allow KidZone — which opened in 1992 — to offer more permanent exhibits, an area for food preparation and consumption, a larger education and gift store, and more programs.

Learning facilities the new museum could potentially have include a clay animation studio, Lego building rooms, an art studio, and a robotics lab or other science lab.

KidZone's goal is to expand current programs and create new programs that reach children through 18 years old. As of today, a majority of its programing reaches children ages 0 to 8.

More online

Visit kidzonemuseum.org to learn more about the KidZone Museum.

Visit bit.ly/1N5MW0R to view the feasibility study performed by Hansford Economic Consulting.

Visit kck.st/1ONTWFa to learn more about the KidZone’s effort to build a larger facility.