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Museum estimates based on “common sense”

Just when you thought talk about the museum couldn’t get any more ridiculous, Phil Luciano publishes this story. He interviews Caterpillar executive Mark Johnson about his estimate of how many visitors will be coming to the museum block if/when it’s built. I hardly know where to begin.

Let’s start with this statement:

Johnson bases his estimates on “my common sense. You can look at these numbers until you’re blue in the face. So you look at it with common sense.”

Well, I don’t know about you, but Mr. Johnson’s common sense is good enough for me to commit millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to the museum. Hey, can I get a small business loan on that basis? Bank: “Mr. Summers, why should we give you this loan? What market research have you done? What’s your business plan?” Me: “My common sense.” Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Let’s take a look at these “common sense” numbers:

Johnson says annual attendance must hit 360,000. He sees it as 120,000 for the museum alone, 120,000 for the Caterpillar Experience alone and 120,000 who visit both.

Okay, so 360,000 people a year will come to the museum block, and of those, 240,000 will visit the museum (120k museum only, plus 120k museum and Cat visitors center). Got it.

…he sees the same numbers visiting the museum per day as the Caterpillar Experience: 667 (That figure includes overlapping of people who go to both sites. Total daily attendance for both is expected to average 1,000 individuals.).

Same thing as before, just expressed in per-day instead of annual terms.

The annual operating budget is pegged at $4 million. Jim Richerson, head of Lakeview Museum, says admission to various attractions would run $8 to $12. But revenue would also come from donations, room rentals, classes and souvenirs.

Let’s do some quick math here: $12 x 240,000 estimated visitors per year = $2,880,000. That leaves a $1.12 million per year deficit — in order to break even, they’d have to get that $1.12 million from “donations, room rentals, classes and souvenirs.”

But that assumes that all 240,000 visitors are paying adults and they’re all getting charged the highest rate ($12), which we know won’t actually happen. That estimated number of visitors includes lots of children on field trips that will be admitted for free. And tickets to many exhibits will cost the lower price of $8. If 25% of those 667 visitors per day are school kids, and the rest of the visitors paid an average admission price of $10, that would come out to only $1.8 million in revenues per year. And that would leave an annual operating deficit of $2.2 million. That’s a lot to make up for in “donations, room rentals, classes and souvenirs.” Where’s the business plan for that?

Oh, I forgot. No business plan. Just “common sense.”

7 comments to Museum estimates based on “common sense”

  • korlack the mord of decar

    Oh CJ, you are a gem. You are the everlasting student. I don’t know why you don’t run for an elected office. I’d vote for you.

  • New Voice

    So…Richerson is back from the dead. With so many ‘experts’ around I thought he was out looking for another ‘museum’ to run.

    The problem here is that these ‘people’ are using the outdated [and boring] Lakeview model to plan their river-city marvel. I don’t care how much they spent on worthless consultants, the ‘plan’ will not work. That is…if they have a plan……

    We have seen all kinds of bogus figures; revenue the museum will supposedly bring in. What about a DETAILED annual budget?

    These museum are starting to sound more and more like politicians. Wait a minute…they are politicians!

  • SD

    Take a look at Wheels ‘O Time Museum. They have had 25 years of success. They are not a non-profit and do well. At least 40% of their visitors are repeat but theirs is an unusual museum and not so big that they can’t handle it or the overhead. Maybe Richerson should look at their business plan. They are one of the very few museums I know of that is self-sustaining. The figures produced by Richerson are impossible. And no one is taking into consideration the weather in the area year round. There is no way they are going to have 240,000 paying visitors per day.

  • Karrie E. Alms

    Please name one Peoria project which has achieved projections…..dead silence.

    Another dead on arrival project with taxpayers footing the bill for financial disaster.

    Once again, it feels like we are stuck playing Liar’s Bluff with Davey Jones, Will Turner and Bootstrap Bill.

  • Puh-lease

    Over 600 visitors per DAY to the museum??? No way. Do that many got to Lakeview now? Who says numbers are “common sense”??? Johnson’s a schmoe who was put on that project cause there was no where else to put him.

  • Ed Sanders

    To borrow a phrase from the national candidates; this all sounds like so much “lipstick on the pig” to me.

  • […] my methods are not nearly as scientific as the “common sense” methods employed by others, but I think a case could be made that the museum’s attendance estimates are wildly […]