Explorit Science Center will permanently close the doors on its Second Street site at the end of the month, board members announced Thursday.
The 30-year-old nonprofit science center suffered a 14 percent drop in financial contributions over the past year, on top of declines in previous years that left Explorit unable to pay the mortgage and other expenses at its site at 2801 Second St. On Thursday, board members announced their intention to sell the building and lay off three part-time employees.
“Although our programs at the Second Street facility have been able to continue during these difficult economic times, continued ownership of the building would dramatically reduce our ability to provide services to the public and school children,” they announced in a news release.
Explorit moved in to the south section of the Second Street building in September 2006, occupying 9,700 square feet of space on two floors. For a time, it shared the facility with the Davis Indoor Sports Center and later with the temporary home of the Stephens Branch Library, while the main library was being expanded and refurbished.
Operations will continue in a more limited way at Explorit’s original site at 3141 Fifth St., as will the center’s traveling outreach programs.
“We hope to maintain at least what Explorit was at the Fifth Street site and we hope to expand our outreach programs,” said executive director Lou Ziskind. “Hopefully, we can expand the exhibit space again once there is adequate income.”
As far as current exhibits at the Second Street site, Ziskind said, “We’re looking at different ways to utilize some of the exhibits. We’re looking at perhaps lending out some of the exhibits to a different museum, but we’ll retain a number of them. We’ve always reused and regenerated items.”
Meanwhile, the older site on Fifth Street will house the center’s newest exhibit — the science of sports.
“That is being installed as we speak,” Ziskind said, “and it will be available for school groups.”
When the general public might be able to check out that exhibit hasn’t been determined yet.
In the news release issued Thursday, board members said, “Explorit will not be able to offer visitation hours at either location at this point.”
It was about this time last year that Explorit, facing a steep drop in donations that left it unable to pay the $1.6 million mortgage on the Second Street facility, launched a “Save Explorit Campaign,” with the goal of raising $600,000 over six months.
That fundraising was fairly successful, Ziskind said Thursday, “and we were able to maintain operations through contributions and other income.”
“We assumed that we would be able to continue forward,” he said, “but the Second Street building … we just haven’t been able to fund those obligations.”
Board president Dr. Rick Baker said increased competition for diminishing contributions throughout the region, including a large fundraising drive under way at the Discovery Museum of Sacramento, hampered Explorit’s ability to raise sufficient funds.
Now, he said, “Our survival is tenuous. We need to slow down and pull back to a level of service that we feel we can afford, and then look at how we can rebuild to give the same types, if not the same volume, of activities that we’ve had in the past.”
Meanwhile, the mood at Explorit remains positive, Ziskind said.
“There is so much momentum here in re-envisioning and recreating Explorit,” he explained. “Everyone is working very hard to really make Fifth Street a successful venue. I’m personally impressed with the way everybody has dug in and done a great deal of work.”
“They are a remarkable group of people,” Baker agreed.
Baker and the other board members said they are “determined to continue our 30-year tradition of creating our own unique, hands-on science investigations, using materials familiar to everyone.
“In order to make these offerings available, even greater community support is needed in the form of in-kind and financial contributions.”
Said Ziskind: “I think the ongoing financial support is extremely important. But Davis has always been a wonderful community and we look forward to that continued support.”
To donate, e-mail [email protected] or call (530) 756-0191.
— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at [email protected] or (530) 747-8051. Comment on this story at http://www.davisenterprise.com