Friends of the Zeiss                                     Statement Before Board of Directors,

P.O. Box 1041                                                                    Allegheny Regional Asset District:

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15230-1041 U.S.A.                                       2003 October 20

Telephone: 412-561-7876

Electronic Mail: < >

Internet Web Site: < >


Good evening, I am Glenn A. Walsh of 633 Royce Avenue, Mount Lebanon. I am Project Director of Friends of the Zeiss.


Last month, Children’s Museum Executive Director Jane Werner waved a business plan before you and promised that Museum finances would be “in excess” with no deficits, once the expanded Museum opens. This business plan based this assumption on rosy projections of attendance, once the expanded museum opens.


According to this business plan, attendance in the first year of the expanded Children’s Museum will leap from 95,000 to 150,000! The following year, attendance is expected to jump, again, to 170,000! By the end of the business plan, in 2007, the attendance is supposed to level-off at 160,000! To put this in perspective, in the 1980s, the Buhl Planetarium building had an annual attendance of about 250,000, in a building half the size of the proposed Children’s Museum after expansion!


Let’s look at the record. In Fiscal Year 2001, the Children’s Museum claimed an attendance of 110,000. The following year, attendance dropped to 92,488. Last year, attendance bounced-back somewhat to 104,672.


The problem is that this plan assumes the old adage, “build it and they will come.” Just because the Children’s Museum increases capacity by four times, the plan assumes that there will, automatically, be a huge increase in attendance. This did not happen with the 1991 opening of The Carnegie Science Center or the 1996 opening of the Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center. In the case of the Science Center, their faulty revenue projections resulted in reduced public visiting hours, increased admission fees, and the lay-off about 30 employees, all within the first year of operation!


The Science Center and the History Center had an advantage that the Children’s Museum does not have; both attract visitors of all ages, while the Children’s Museum is very age-specific. No matter what the Children’s Museum builds, there is a large segment of the community who would never even consider visiting the Children’s Museum.


If economic development leaders in the community succeed in increasing foreign immigration into the area, and to succeed there will need to be good jobs for these immigrants, then ten to fifteen years from now there may be more children to visit a Children’s Museum. However, right now, with Allegheny County having one of the highest percentages of senior citizen residents in the country, the potential Children’s Museum customer base is much smaller than most cities.


The Children’s Museum business plan is faulty, due to the very optimistic attendance and revenue projections included. And, considering that the Children’s Museum paid a consultant to provide a business plan for a desired expansion project, is it any surprise that the completed business plan told Children’s Museum officials exactly what they wanted to hear?


If the Children’s Museum expansion project must go forward, then additional revenue sources must be found for operating the expanded building. To maximize the revenue potential of the Buhl Planetarium building, and attendance to the expanded Children’s Museum, we ask that this Board insist that the historic Zeiss II Planetarium Projector and 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope be returned to the Buhl Planetarium building for historical presentations in the expanded Museum.


Thank you.