The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

March 25, 2013

Leonardo's raising money for exhibits, renovation

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Leonardo’s Discovery Warehouse is on its way to a new look and new experiences for the more than 90,000 kids a year who visit, thanks to a seven-year capital campaign, program officials told Enid Rotary Club members Monday.

The campaign will raise $6 million for the renovation of the longtime Enid attraction, plus $2 million for an endowment — a total of $8 million, said Leonardo’s Executive Director Julie Baird.

Scott Northcutt, who co-chairs the program with Christy Northcutt, said the program will provide an educational endowment to provide expanded museum and program access to under-served populations in the area.

“Since 1995, there have been a million visitors there (at Leonardo’s),” Northcutt said. “That’s 10 million fingerprints.”

Baird and Northcutt also spoke about the addition of new exhibits, which will be designed and built by a Kentucky company specializing in children’s museum exhibits.

The planned changes include the front entrance moving to the south side on Maple as part of an exterior that will be more interesting; a fully finished third floor to include an art wing, a science wing and two additional classrooms; the addition of 12-16 permanent hands-on exhibits to the first and second floors; a new storm shelter; and expansion and modernization of an animal habitat and restrooms on all three floors.

There also will be a new community conference room; a second birthday party room and modernization of the existing room; and renovations to the Adventure Quest garden.

Work will include a welcome center, gathering area, museum store, party rooms on the first and second floors and a “critters clubhouse,” along with a two-story exhibit Northcutt said kids can use to climb to the second floor and slide down to the first.

Exhibits will include an energy area, focusing on the industries that are most prominent in Enid, including solar, natural gas, electric and wind energy. There also will be a carpenter shop and toddler areas on all three floors.

“It’s hands-on learning, purposeful play,” Baird said.

Agriculture also will play a prominent part among exhibits. Included are a wheat maze and combine, farmers market and transportation exhibits. In the city area, visitors will see a grocery, clinic, fitness store, art gallery, gas station and automated teller machine.

The military will be represented, with attractions including a flight simulator, flying activity, a make-and-take area, decal decoration and dress up.

The third floor will contain the art wing, science wing, two classrooms, a conference room, a kitchen, a common area and storage. There will be men’s and women’s restrooms on each floor.

Leonardo’s and Adventure Quest were built in 1995 with the assistance and support of former astronaut Owen K. Garriott and Helen Garriott. Adventure Quest was built with the help of more than 12,000 volunteers.

In 2010, visitors from 46 states, 60 Oklahoma counties and 15 countries came through Leonardo’s, the only children’s museum within 90 miles. Also in 2010, more than $56,000 in scholarships were provided for Enid families who could not afford to attend the museum.

Since 1995, the museum has hosted more than 1 million visitors.