- Associated Press - Saturday, August 9, 2014

DECATUR, Ala. (AP) - Plans to relocate and expand the Cook Museum of Natural Science in Decatur are growing, with officials now saying they plan a much larger facility that will cost an estimated $15 million and open in early 2017.

Brian Cook, president of the museum’s board of directors, tells the Decatur Daily (https://bit.ly/XQrmvK ) market research shows the new facility could receive 214,000 visitors in the first year, not including school groups.

Plans now call for a new building to be erected at the downtown site, rather than remodeling an existing building. Cook says architects decided that would be less expensive given the plans now calling for a 57,000-square-foot building but it also pushes back the opening, which had been set for late 2015.

The Cook family, which runs one of the nation’s largest pest control companies, has pledged $7 million for the project near its Alabama headquarters. The rest will come from outside funds.

Original plans called for a 35,000-square-foot facility to replace one that currently houses about 1,200 specimens. Proposed exhibits include live aquarium displays with tarantulas, Madagascar hissing cockroaches and a working beehive, plus an underground explorer’s cave and an ocean exhibit featuring jellyfish and tropical fish.

The once-free attraction will now charge admission and also include a cafe, a theater and classroom space in addition to a 5,000-square-foot space for traveling exhibits.

Crystal Brown, director of business development at the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce, said downtown merchants are disappointed by the delayed opening, but excited at the expanded plans for the museum.

“The community is anxious for it to open because of the traffic it will bring to the downtown area,” Brown said. “But I think we’ll all be proud of a bigger and better museum that will draw visitors from even farther away.”


Information from: The Decatur Daily, https://www.decaturdaily.com/decaturdaily/index.shtml

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