EAU CLAIRE — The Children’s Museum of Eau Claire will remain closed until the new building on the Liner Site, 126 N. Barstow St., is ready to open in 2022.
Due to COVID-19, the museum closed March 16, but reopened July 6. However, the museum closed again Aug. 2.
The museum’s executive director, Mike McHorney, made the announcement Tuesday, saying they anticipated losing between $119,000 and $244,000 if they attempted to re-open in January, which would deplete their cash reserves by the end of 2021.
“According to survey data from the Association of Children’s Museums, 53% of children’s museums across the country are closed through Dec. 31, 2020, due to the pandemic,” McHorney said. “Of that figure, 9% attempted to reopen, only to have to close due to operating losses or because of a surge in COVID-19 cases. It’s been estimated by (the association) that the mobilization cost of reopening is $50,000, which won’t be recouped.
“The Children’s museum of Eau Claire is living proof of this figure,” McHorney added. “After reopening for the month of July, CMEC suffered devastating losses from operating which equaled $37,300. CMEC invested more than $10,000 in PPE, disinfecting equipment, and employee training.”
He previously told the Leader-Telegram that the museum lost an average of $1,272 a day during the month it reopened.
Although the building is closed, the fundraising efforts to construct the new building are continuing.
In October 2019, the Eau Claire Redevelopment Authority entered into a memorandum of understanding with the museum and Monarch Ventures to construct buildings on the vacant lot. The museum signed a development agreement with the city in August.
The museum and the Monarch Ventures facility would share the block, with the buildings constructed in a U-shape, creating a courtyard in the middle. The preliminary plans call for the children’s museum to be two-story, 23,500-square-feet building, and the Monarch Ventures building being three stories and 27,000 square feet in size, which would include room for a restaurant and commercial space. McHorney hasn’t stated the estimated cost of the new building.
In August, CMEC announced that its current building, located at 220 S. Barstow St., is for sale with a $1.4 million asking price. The current museum is 15,400 square feet, so the new building would have 5,000 more square feet of indoor exhibit space, along with 5,000 square feet of outdoor exhibit space.
McHorney said it just made sense to wait to reopen once the new building is ready.
“Bottom line, there will be a Children’s Museum in the future,” he said. “For 15 years, the Children’s Museum has been a significant and valuable asset to the community.”
McHorney says the CMEC brings in an estimated $1.14 million each year in tourism spending into the community.