Museum Reaches 1 Million Visitors Big Attendance in Last Three Years a Surprise
Boerema, Amy, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Amy Boerema Daily Herald Staff Writer
Heather Moore said a newspaper blurb about the DuPage Children's Museum approaching a major attendance milestone caught her eye.
"I thought, 'Wow, that's cool, a million visitors,'" the Naperville mom said.
She never actually thought she'd be that 1 millionth visitor.
But Tuesday, upon entering the Naperville museum around 9:30 a.m., she and her 2-year-old identical twins, Connor and Matthew, were greeted as such.
They scored T-shirts and lifetime memberships. The Moore name also will be engraved on a tile to be displayed in the museum.
"This is great," Moore said. "What a great Christmas present."
The twin sons seemed a bit scared of the attention, reaching out to Moore and their grandparents, Dale and Earlene Larson, who were visiting from Florida.
"They're kind of overwhelmed," Moore said. "But they love coming here."
Since the museum's Naperville opening in 2001, its growth has surpassed leaders' expectations.
Two Hinsdale educators originally founded the museum in 1987. It was temporarily housed at an Elmhurst Park District facility and then moved to the Wheaton Park District Community Center. Three years ago, with attendance continuing to swell, it permanently relocated to 301 N. Washington St. in Naperville, the former Moser Lumber Showroom.
The museum has seen more than 300,000 visitors each of the past three years - a number officials thought would drop after the opening year.
"That we've been able to maintain it has surprised everyone," museum marketing manager Aimee Sprinkel said.
The museum has between 800 and 1,000 visitors daily.
"We're thrilled the community loves the museum," Executive Director Susan Broad said.
But officials also said bigger crowds mean bigger maintenance costs.
"The other side of 1 million visitors is that there is 1 million visitors," Broad said.
Two years ago, the museum faced a deficit of about $650,000, she said. That's been whittled down to about nearly $100,000 this year, and it should be wiped out by 2006.
Museum officials have seen a 60 percent growth in donations in recent years, she said - an encouraging sign.
"We appreciate the ongoing support of the community," Broad said.
That includes the Moore family, which visits the museum every other month. …