By Robb Murray firstname.lastname@example.org
The Mankato Free Press
---- — MANKATO — Up until now, the much talked about agreement between the city of Mankato and the Southern Minnesota Children’s Museum has been just that: talk.
Today, all that will change.
City and museum officials will meet today in the city’s bus garage, which will be the future home of the museum. They’ll sign the agreement that will put any speculation to rest.
“Tomorrow it becomes officially official,” said Southern Minnesota Children’s Museum Director Peter Olson on Monday.
Olson and city officials will sign a five-year lease. If all goes well, renovation could begin in September and the museum could be ready for little ones by the end of 2014.
What could go wrong?
“The city has to get through the environmental assessment,” Olson said. “The lease has terms built around the environmental standards. And that is one of the things that could affect the timeline.”
They also still need to raise enough money to pay for renovations. But the museum is raising money at a frantic pace, and they’ll be making another “special announcement” at today’s event.
Olson declined to say what the announcement might be, but the last time they called a press conference was to let the community know that Denny and Carole Dotson were giving a half million dollars to the cause. That donation brought the campaign to $3.4 million. How much is needed to renovate the bus garage is another question Olson deferred until today.
Today’s event will give visitors an idea of the vision of the museum. It will include illustrations of exhibits that will actually be in the museum, and activities that will give visitors a chance to help design Mankato Clinic Tree of Forts Climber, which will be one of the signature attraction of the museum.
Olson said the momentum behind the project has been exhillarating.
“It goes to show that Mankato and southern Minnesota is a place that puts children first,” he said. “It’s inspiring the level of commitment people feel toward making their community, their region a vital place to live and raise their children.
“It’s part of a sea change in understanding the important role that early childhood plays in one’s entire development,” he said. “The Southern Minnesota Children’s Museum is really going to show off to the rest of the state, and the Midwest and the entire world the best of Mankato and southern Minnesota. It’ll highlight who we are and why our home is a special place, and that’s the vision we hope people are able to see (today).”