ImagineU Breaks Ground for New Children’s Museum

The new ImagineU Museum is expected to open in spring 2015.
The new ImagineU Museum is expected to open in spring 2015.

ImagineU Interactive Children’s Museum held the groundbreaking for its eagerly anticipated new facility on December 18. About 100 community leaders and other museum supporters were present to help launch the construction phase of the new museum, which is expected to open in spring 2015.

The new ImagineU, which will be located at 603 E. Oak Ave. in Visalia, will feature 15,000 square feet of new hands-on indoor exhibits, as well as outdoor exhibits, that inspire children to learn. The community will benefit from the Amphimeadow (the planned outdoor amphitheater), an education/community room with kitchen, and a Focus Group Facility.

The building was designed by The Taylor Group, and award-winning exhibit designer Haizlip Studios from the East Coast designed the exhibits.

“It’s not just a local children’s museum,” said Cheryl Christman, ImagineU board president. “It’s going to be a regional children’s museum. There’s no other children’s museum of this caliber three hours in any direction. We think that people will make this a travel destination.

“It’s an opportunity for children to experience the things they haven’t had a chance to experience before,” she added. “It opens up a whole new world for them.”

Exhibits will include the Majestic Oak Tree Climber, the U Fix it Garage, Angela’s Castle Theatre, the Grove Pick and Pack, Ready Set Grow and Wonderful Water.

“I get excited about all of them,” said Christman. “The Majestic Oak Tree Climber is going to be a fabulous exhibit. The Grove Pick and Pack shows children what the Valley is all about. The Wonderful Water exhibit outside teaches children about water conservation. At Imagination Station, children can express themselves creatively.”

The majority of the funding, $5.4 million, is the result of a grant through the State of California Parks and Recreation Proposition 84 Nature’s Facility Grant. An additional $500,000 has come from donations from local business and individuals.

When the Valley Voice reported on ImagineU’s plans in May 2009, the museum’s goal was to raise $3.6 million.

“That was the original cost of just the original building, not the entire project,” explained Christman. “The project is about $6.5 to $7 million. We’ve added a banquet facility to the project, so that has added some additional cost, and construction costs have gone up since then. We also changed our original location.”

The banquet facility will be a community gathering place that can be rented out for workshops and other events. “It will also enable us to have our own fundraising events right there,” said Christman.

ImagineU Museum is currently conducting a capital campaign with the goal of raising an additional $2 million for the museum.

“This includes opportunities for individuals, businesses and corporations for sponsoring naming rights to exhibits and rooms, perhaps in memory of a loved one,” said Christman, who added that negotiations are currently underway for some naming rights.

To take a virtual tour of the new ImagineU Museum or for information about the museum, including sponsorship opportunities, visit www.imagineumuseum.org and click on “New ImagineU.” The museum, which is currently operating at 700 E. Main St. in Visalia, can also be reached at 733-5975.

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