April 2013
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Translation: Attendance is low and we’re losing money.

In a stunning revelation no one could ever have seen coming, the Journal Star reports that the Peoria Riverfront Museum is not holding up their end of the bargain with Peoria County taxpayers.

For months, county officials have asked for — but not received — audited financial statements from last year, federal tax forms and a copy of the museum’s operating and capital budget. […]

The museum’s fiscal year ended June 30, 2012 — nearly 10 months ago — and Scott Sorrel, one of the county’s top administrators, said the county has been seeking financial records since shortly after the new fiscal year began.

Jim Richerson, the museum’s president, said Tuesday in an email response to questions that last year’s audit hadn’t been completed.

And by “hasn’t been completed,” he no doubt means, “we haven’t figured out how to spin this yet.” It’s pretty obvious to anyone who has driven by or even visited the museum that this place is not reaching its attendance goals, and that means it’s not meeting its revenue goals either. So why not just own up to the truth?

Well, first of all, the museum folks don’t like being told what to do, and part of their contract with Peoria County is that the County can dictate a scaling-back of operations if the museum is not profitable. That would be embarrassing for the museum folks.

Secondly, when was the last time the museum folks told the truth? Not about the IMAX they promised. Remember when they said they had a contract with IMAX on their desk just waiting to be signed once the referendum passed? Remember when they said they were going to get 1,000 visitors a day to the museum block–240,000 per year to the museum alone? Then they tried to revise history a few months ago, saying that the goal was really only 180,000 per year? The spin factory has been in full production for a while down at Museum Square.

In fact, looking at the Wikihow article on “How to Lie,” I would suspect that the museum folks have made it to step 14 (“never lie to government officials”). And if you can’t lie, what option is left?


22 comments to Translation: Attendance is low and we’re losing money.

  • MW

    You must be loving this.

  • Andy

    The museum did not open until Oct 2012 so the fiscal year that ended June 30 2012 would not have any operating results. I would assume that the audit would have details regarding pledges, collections, construction costs and other items that may be uncomfortable to explain.

    The Journal Star report also mentions that operating and capital budgets are to be provided. That might be more interesting to see but since they are budgets, I would assume that they would show that the operation is viable. It will be interesting to see the audit report for the year ending June 30 2013 to see the first 8+ months of operations and capital expenditures.

  • Mahkno

    What could have been:

    Instead we got a grain silo and a machine shed. Yippee!

  • Jim

    Shocker! I am shocked I tell you! Relocating Lakeview Museum from a busy intersection in the geographic center of Peoria to an open lot in downtown Peoria didn’t lead to bags of cash coming in the door?

  • Eye in the Sky

    Wanna see how fast they get the report if they CUT the funding.There is NO excuse for this they knew it was going to happen. Time for outside company to come in and audit them or maybe the IRS should get involved.

  • The Mouse

    Don’t expect them to own up anytime soon. Look at how long the State played accounting games to pretend they were solvent. The only way to salvage this disaster is to try to get a private company in that will add something that will produce revenue. But everybody know that, including the museum, all along. They just couldn’t say it. Until after the taxpayers were fleeced.

  • A Mom

    My wish? That they’d sell the current building to some other business and go back to the area where they were at. Isn’t the YWCA building and land for sale at the old site? Wish they’d buy that, tear down the old Lakeview building and the Ywca, and rebuild out there in that spot. I hate the new facility. We bought a membership, and have so far gone once…..and don’t really feel the need to go back at all. We used to love the old Lakeview, and went there a lot. At the old facility, they didn’t charge outlandish prices for everything. The new facility is, in my opinion, full of essentially nothing, and we are so disappointed overall in how things turned out. We’re a homeschooling family, so we have a natural affinity for things like museums and learning experiences, but there’s something about the new place that just does not click swith us. As a means of comparison, my kids LOVE going to Forest Park Nature Center, and beg to stop there all the time. The building is older, but the place is “neat”, somehow. Lakeview used to be “neat”, and we loved having a green space to visit in the center of Peoria. Anyway, this is all so sad. Seriously, they should cut their losses, sell the thing, and try again.

  • Seriously, you expected otherwise? In this digital, electronic, instant gratification world where we distance ourselves from the world and insulate ourselves from our neighbors, was there ever any doubt a museum based on steel behemoths and ancient history would fail? The concept was flawed from the beginning. As to trying again, perhaps with the newly elected councilmen there might be a chance of an idea that MIGHT actually work. Perhaps converting the monstrosity to a casino, tearing down the aforementioned buildings and erecting some REAL hotels and restaurants would be the way to go. Or perhaps a return to the days when Peoria was a “wide open” playground for the Chicago mob? Oh,and while we are on the subject of change, how about paying all the residents of the East Bluff to move so they can bulldoze the place and OSF can start to build their apartment complexes for the thousands of medical students they want to attract?

    Folks, it’s a museum. Museums are wonderful things, meant to remind us of where we have been, but they are never profitable. Well, maybe if you put Big Al’s in the middle. Probably not even then.

  • Paul Wilkinson

    CJ, they did lie to government officials, who could forget the rehearsed discussion between Ryan and Ryan where even Ardis caught on to the lies, but simply said the museum people need to be more forthcoming and timely. In other words, lie away, the public checkbook is ready to spew forth a fountain of tax dollars for you to quench your thirst.

    Residents…tough crap, we’ve got to tighten our belts. Stay inside, lock your doors, dodge the potholes and the bullets…..

  • vonster

    I still say part of it looks like a Jawa transport from Star Wars.

  • I wonder if the the lease agreement has a section outlining the eviction process?

  • After paying my Garbage Fee and sending it off to Decatur, I had a chance to reflect. Mr. Smith I disagree on museums not being profitable. I think of the Science and Industry Museum and Field Museum in Chicago. Two that I would and have driven to, to visit. Both of those are museums done right. Now for our little shed, the old Lakeview is being renovated as we speak into nice beautiful cushy offices and meeting space for our beloved Park District. Once that is done, then people won’t have to worry about the tons of money (millions) that the PD had stashed for that trail when the rails were ripped out. But but, nothing has been done to the trail past the Heights. Where did all that money go? I’ll bet into that renovation at Lakeview and most likely into the maintenance and infrastructure of the aging (read cheaply built) RexPlex.

    Standby residents of Peoria County. When that report is issued and the spin on it is discussed, we will be asked to absorb a little extra 1% tax increase in the current county museum tax. After all, we have to tighten our belts so the wealthy class of Peoria has a place to hang their art and sip wine and offer free tickets to their friends to the museum. We peons in the meantime, will have to keep going to work and wishing we could afford to take our families there.

  • clayton

    You’re kidding yourself if you think the Field Museum turns a profit. Great place, but it is racking up the debt and struggling to keep the government subsidies.

  • Emtronics

    The Field is run by a private endowment. It recently took on some projects totaling over $65 million and because of the collapse of the economy ticket sales have dropped. This has cause the museum to layoff and look for cutbacks. This museum doesn’t run on tax dollars.

  • So, Em, you are saying that a private endowment and not profit is what keeps the doors open? No Objections, mind you, I love the Field museum, especially the Lions of Tsavo.

  • Well, the Field is having problems due to recession and the fact they invested $65 million into projects but the taxpayers aren’t footing the bill and it is well run and interesting. I too, love to go there and have been there many times, and still want to go back. And Yes I am saying that is what keeps the doors open although they have had to have cutbacks in staff.

  • Sorry to take so long, Em, but I did get to the article you linked to. Good article, but brother, we ain’t Chi-town and we certainly have nothing in our museum that would bring that kind of money or that kind of interest. Apples and oranges, my friend.

  • CJ, Karrie and I could write a book titled “The Museum That Was Built in Scerecy and Lies”. We were the ones that dug out or tried to dig out the real facts and get these facts before the public while the museum people spent of $600,000 for fantasy, big egoes, and total or half-truths.

    The JS still can’t dig deep enough to see that the figure they use; $40 million of tapayer money is $1.6 million to low. $41.6 million was the amount eventually given by the County Board thru the facility tax, the city gave the land valued at $12 to $18 million plus at least another $600,000 for misc. infrastructure, etc., Ray Lahood captured at $3.6 million for the underground parking; another $800,000, maybe more, came later, MASA and the IHSA kicked in $3 million combined, the State of Illinois contributed somewhere in the vicinity of $5 million plus $1.3 milllion for planning back as early as 12/15/02 Labor Employment and Training Administration kicked in $65,000 thru Ray LaHood.

    All taxpayer dollars. And $100,000’s of thousands in other public tax money never revealed to this writer.

    And an ugly building too boot. Comoare the finished product with artists conceptions.


    Overall, what was to be a museum funded 66% by private dollars turned out to be about 67% funded by TAXPAYER dollars. In return, the taxpayer appears possibly will be stuck with another bailout on the riverfront by either more private dollars (hard to collect ‘pledges’ as the museum promoters are finding out), but eventually, more taxpayer dollars.

    And no, the Peoria County survey taken at taxpayer expense by the National Citizens Survey taken in Nov. 2009 and published in Feb., 2010 , showed that 65% somewhat oppose or strongly oppose sales tax to build the riverfront museum. (See “Summary Report” by Jenny Zinkel, Director of Strategic Communications of Peoria County.

    I suggest the JS in their earlier biased reporting never even saw the survey. Need a copy? I have it plus confirmation of all published above.

  • Pardon the typo errors. NASA, not MASA

  • Yes that was my point Fred. Apples and Oranges Why does our Museum think it’s Chicago?

  • Carmen

    Merle, I wish you and Karrie and CJ would write that book! I watched it all play out on the blogs over a period of months and years. I’d love to see it all put together: the timeline, the changing stories, what was promised vs. what was delivered; complete with photos. Show the “proposed building” as it morphed from the “Amazeum” to its actual completed state. Seriously, that book would be a cracking read. I’d buy it!