October 2012
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Museum attendance projections revised downward

PEORIA — Peoria Riverfront Museum attendance projections apparently have been lowered 25 percent, based on figures from a museum official quoted by a local newspaper.

Toni Tripp, vice president of marketing and communications at the Peoria Riverfront Museum, told the Peoria Journal Star that “about 180,000 people are expected to visit the museum over the course of the year; which assumes about 500 people walk through daily.” That marks a significant decrease in the number of patrons that museum officials have heretofore predicted.

When the museum’s operating budget was being put together in 2007, Lakeview Museum, consultant White Oak Associates, and Caterpillar, Inc., predicted the museum would see 240,000 visitors per year, or 667 visitors per day. A detailed report showing these figures is still available on Peoria County’s website. The latest projections cut those original numbers by a fourth.

The decrease in attendance means lower revenues for the museum, which means a much larger endowment would be needed to sustain the operating budget. The 2007 budget projections said that a $6.75 million endowment was needed if the museum met its projections at 100%. At 90% of projections, a $13.5 million endowment would be needed. No scenario was given for the museum potentially meeting only 75% of projections, but the endowment needed under that scenario would clearly be more than the museum’s current $10 million target.

A big part of the discussion leading up to the successful passage of a .25% sales tax increase to help build the museum centered on whether the operating budget of the museum would be sustainable. At that time, museum officials touted the large, regional draw of an IMAX theater showing first-run movies at night and museum gallery attendance that was on par with other museums nationwide used as benchmarks. Since that time, the museum abandoned the IMAX brand to go with little-known giant-screen cinema company Global Immersion, decided that showing first-run movies did not fit with their mission, and now have lowered their overall attendance projections.

A request for comment from Toni Tripp went unanswered.

33 comments to Museum attendance projections revised downward

  • A sporting goods store opened in the middle of the week to significantly more fanfare. Something like 10,000 people or so in the couple of days compared to the museum weekend opening of 2,500. Now I know that’s an apples to oranges comparison, but it also shows that there is not the pent up demand for this type of venture as previously expected. I think expectations need to be adjusted, and obviously lowered.

    I am for museums in general. This one, I am just uncertain of. I see this as a one and done type of activity for most and not returning with great frequency. Despite its appearance, how it functions with its surroundings, and the annual cost, I just don’t know if this is what people want to visit. IMAX’s and alternatives have been around for years, is that enough to bring people in or keep them returning? – I don’t think so.

    Is it better than a hole in the ground? Yes. Is it, or could it be an asset? Yes. But it in and of itself is not a game changer for the City or the region. The buzz and attendance projections haven’t even been enough to fill a vacancy where Retro Tap/Old Chicago used to be. Maybe it will, but for now it stands like other structures here as an isolated individual in a downtown unable to create “vibrant” and “lively.”

  • Some girl

    We were pretty sad that they closed the old Lakeview Museum. The building was getting “tired”, I suppose, but I personally think that moving the museum to the downtown area was a mistake. We generally do nothing in the downtown area, and taking advantage of any classes and offerings will be more of a hassle. We have not been to the new museum yet, but just from driving by over the past few months, the building/parking areas sort of look confusing to me, and more difficult to navigate than the old Lakeview. (We haven’t been by the new building in the past few weeks since everything was finished, and maybe it’s better, but that was just our first impression.) And the cost is a factor for us, too. We have five kids, and have tkaen advantage of Lakeview’s programs in the past, but the new membership levels are definitely more expensive for families, and that has put the brakes on for us, too. I wish that they would have bought the YWCA property next to them, planned a redesigned/updated building, and left it in the same general site. I think they would have had a better response.

  • martin palmer

    Heck CJ just put the .25%tax to run it and problems solved. Sure the county (after the election)will find away to fund it forever. I for one take as much of our purchases out of Peoria County.

  • Pez

    If a 10% drop in attendance equals another $6.75 million endowment, then a 25% drop means another $16.875M more (in addition to the $6.75M if attendance was 100%).

    Therefore at 75%, the endowment needed is $23.625 million !!!!

  • The Mouse

    and they will be revised downward again. I like musuems, and visit them more than most people, so I hate to say it, but this is a total loser. And it’s almost comical that they spent a fortune recreating – in an ugly modern building – a slice of the history of a city that has no regard whatever for historic preservation.

  • Karrie E. Alms

    Mouse: Amen. Maybe that is their idea of ‘historic preservation’?

  • Eye in the Sky

    I would rather drive to galesburg antique mall to see old stuff.Then drive to Chicago to see a REAL museum MSI is a world class museum this thing wouldn’t even make it as a closet up there. The money will never be there like they say. No first run movies that might have kept them afloat other wise forget it. I do find it ODD they close at 5 guess they figured CAT is closed so peoria just rolls up the sidewalks till monday morning.

  • Desperado

    Congrats CJ on recognizing this as a new and lower number from the museum folks. Apparently the Journal Star didn’t recognize this drop and therefore didn’t make the effort to question why the drop of 60,000. I’m guessing this is a direct result of the loss of the IMAX branding at the theater. Also interesting that the museum folks couldn’t get their act together in order to have their movie distribution contract in place so that they were not able to start showing evening shows during that first week. And then apparently although they don’t have their own exhibit open (the Fine Arts and Folk Arts exhibit) they’re still charging folks the full amount for admission. How in the world could these people, after planning this thing for at least a dozen years or so, not have their own exhibit open to showcase their duck decoys etc. during opening weekend? Just unbelievable incompentence demonstrated once again.

    Those folks on the County Board better get prepared, I’m gonna predict that within two years, the Museum Board will come cryin for $ to operate their boondoggle.

  • checking for details

    The decision about not utilizing first run movies is also going to hurt them. Who wouldn’t want to go see certain movies on opening night on a giant screen (momentarily ignoring the IMAX lie to sell the museum tax). The original plan was to have a 24/7 block. The city council killed it, the county board killed it, the museum board killed it. I have seen the media hype. It does not look like something I would be interested in going to. It’s new and shiny. It will wear down, need repairs, etc. If they can’t make the operating expense, then where is the plan to fund repairs and replacement. Most importantly for the 100$ million in tax dollars, how many full time, family wage with benefits jobs did it create. (not construction, those people are already getting unemployment). Same to be said for the Hotel and the Museum. These are vital stats as the council sinks every dime we have into these projects. The area becomes more and more poor, which means our economy becomes less and less what it needs to be to sustain the basics. I noticed PJstar is now definining unemployment regionally, utilizing the opening of Excel foundary to state manufacturing jobs are on the rise. Well, if you live in Pekin they did. In Peoria, not so much and we should be the most significant part of economic development.

  • merle widmer

    Museum abandoned IMAX? How about the other way around?

  • Karrie E. Alms

    Odds and ends, part 2

    The new Peoria Riverfront Museum certainly looks impressive both inside and out. But after all the hype surrounding the building, it would have been nice if it could have attracted more than 15 ordinary citizens when the doors opened at 10 a.m. Oct. 20. Alas, that’s about as many as were milling around waiting for the official opening.

  • I was there the other day and I counter 15 people.

  • merle widmer

    Why no 1st run movies at the museum? They can’t afford the extra premiium they would need to pay because the distributers didn’t believe their figures either.

  • merle: I looked over your blog (only for a minute before I started to upchuck) but the museum has no 1st run movies? How is that Obama’s fault? I’m sure you have an angle because you have blamed him for everything else but the sunrise. oops.

  • checking for details.

    I wonder if there is any way to get the numbers of customers from Chic fil a. The place is packed from open to close including the double lane drive through. Each time I have driven by the museum, there are few if any cars parked. The restaurant was built with private funds, produces sales tax and property tax revenues but has free parking. The museum couldn’t get hardly any private funds is a burden to the taxpayers, pays no property taxes and it does not generate enough sales tax or parking revenues to even pay for the new fancy meters the city just had to have. (refer to city council and shiny new object theory).

    Perhaps we should have scrapped the museum, built the restaurant with tax funds and let it pay for itself in a couple of years. We’d at least be ahead with the council’s spending mentality.

    There is no substitute for private enterprise, unfortunately only a handful of elected officials get that.

  • I get that! To be fair, maybe people are using the underground parking deck and that is why the place looks empty. Still, I am wondering if Chic fil A has more customers than the museum.

  • checking for details

    no, take a peek into the parking deck. I am a little more thorough than that. Question is going to be how much the city and county taxpayers will be taken to the cleaners for the unfunded operating expenses.

  • Karrie E. Alms

    Ha ha … the parking deck is for the museum employees so that they will feel safe …

    so does anyone know if the museum has to provide monthly, quarterly, etc financial reports to the Peoria County Board?

  • checking for details

    remember, staff and voluteers have to pay for parking. someone’s got to fund those fancy meters. I couldn’t imagine that the museum is accountable to anyone, why would those in power even expect that. Today was the mayor’s prayer lunch. Hopefully some one lead a healing ceremony so that our local leaders could safey remove their collective heads from their collective buttocks.

  • Karrie E. Alms

    Are you there are no comps for parking?

  • checking for details

    I am sure that they are, the last that was released was that volunteers and staff were going to have to pay for parking. I doubt Richerson pays and select buddies. I still want the elected local officials who participated in conning the people about this project, answer where the budget shortfall is going to come from.

  • The IMAX “brand” means very little actually. The attendance will, I predict, drop little by little.

  • Karrie E. Alms

    Billy: What is the current attendance? For the museum, for the planetatium, for the theater … individually … collectively? Not sure if they even have the numbers to make their budget projections …

  • checking for details

    There hasn’t been a report in the paper since the projections were cut in half. This will be buried by city and county officials.

  • I’m still curious if part of of the admission fee goes to the HRA tax. I would think it would fall under the “amusement” heading as (from what I read) it isn’t purely educational. One would think at least the theater would be.

  • checking for details

    Luciano’s article is interesting in todays pjstar. Looks like the attendance or lack of is gaining attention.

  • Karrie E. Alms

    Taxpayers will still foot the bill while the museum tailors keep spinning the emperor’s latest suit! 🙁

  • checking for details

    and more lies will be spun, the sheep of this country believe you can spin gold from straw.

  • checking for details

    Costco is still open until 8pm, but has blown away the museum numbers. Great move Andrew Rand, Ryan Spain, the Mayor and others who pushed for that waste of tax payer money. perhaps your public salaries should go to fund the shortfall in the operating budget which will be from the lack of attendance.

  • Jon

    Thanks for the link to the museum’s old financial plan, CJ. In looking at those again now, I did note that they at least increased the prices – presumably to account for lower forecasts and/or the reduction in revenue associated with not having IMAX/first run movies. Interestingly I see that the Putnam Museum in the QC also decided not to renew with IMAX but have a different type of system – “4K” digital technology with a National Geographic branding.