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Children's museum in Tampa breaks ground

Dressed as a firefighter, Ethan Walker, 7, hands out programs. Helping him is Anna Grace Brackin, 6, left, and Triniti Evans, 6.

STEPHEN J. CODDINGTON | Times

Dressed as a firefighter, Ethan Walker, 7, hands out programs. Helping him is Anna Grace Brackin, 6, left, and Triniti Evans, 6.

TAMPA — Melinda Rix believes that one day her 4-year-old son will love exploring the rooms in the new Glazer Children's Museum.

But at Monday's groundbreaking for the $21 million facility, Hansen was happy playing in the dirt at the construction site, where refreshments included jelly-and-cream-cheese sandwiches and juice boxes.

"He likes it just the way it is," Rix said as she watched her son lift rocks and dig with a kid-sized shovel.

The 53,000-square-foot museum is scheduled to open in the middle of 2010. It's the third project coming out of the ground on the riverfront expanse between the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center and an office tower on Kennedy Boulevard.

An art museum also is under construction there, and Curtis Hixon Park is in the middle of a $15 million renovation.

At the groundbreaking, Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan and Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio talked about the economic impact of the children's museum.

"Take a few moments to soak in what you see here," Iorio said, pointing to the construction going on all around her. The recession may have sparked a "gloom and doom mentality" among many people, she said, but development downtown is still going forward.

Local company J.O. DeLotto and Sons is construction manager for the project, and the seven largest subcontractors are headquartered in and around Tampa.

"A project of this size will involve over 200 people locally who will be onsite and touch this project in some way during the course of construction," said Al Najjar, director of the museum.

The museum eventually will employ 22 people full time and 50 seasonal and part-time workers, he said.

Board director Sandy Murman says the museum's capital campaign has raised $14-million so far.

The biggest donor is the Glazer family, owners of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who contributed $5 million to the project. Hillsborough County directed $3 million in sales tax money to construction.

Inside the museum, many of the 175 exhibits will feature the names of sponsors.

Bright House contributed $500,000 for an exhibit that includes a theater where kids can stage plays and make recordings of their performances to take home.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District donated $650,000 for a multistory, climbable display that allows children to follow the path of water from the roots of a tree, to the clouds above and back down again as rain.

Murman says she has potential backers for additional displays.

"We've still got this darn economy," she said. "Our prospects are kind of waiting for things to get better."

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3401.

Children's museum in Tampa breaks ground 03/09/09 [Last modified: Monday, March 9, 2009 11:15pm]
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