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Monday, Aug. 28, 2017

Sci-Port Getting Major Design Re-boot

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Sci-Port Discovery Center fans and supporters were pretty surprised to hear the announcement that Sci-Port was closing and was soon to be managed by big fish Planet Aqua Group (PAG), the visionary team behind the new Shreveport Aquarium. But after all the dust settled, it quickly became evident that the Sci-Port board of directors will remain in control of the organization and Sci-Port will only be closing temporarily for what is being billed as a major design/content re-boot that will preserve and improve Sci-Port for North Louisiana.

“The board of directors for Sci-Port has commissioned Planet Aqua Group to manage the facility and oversee the renovation and reorganization,” said Jake Woods with PAG. “The board of directors will remain as the governing body for the facility, and PAG will report directly to the board.”

Board member-at-large Richard D. Lamb III is excited about bringing in PAG. “This is absolutely a win-win,” he said. “Initially, the talks were only about shared ticketing. Only after several meetings did we realize the many advantages of outsourcing the executive director position to Planet Aqua Group as opposed to an individual.”

Turns out it was an idea that was percolating on both sides. “Adrea Gibbs presented the idea to me in a meeting with them at my office,” Lamb said. “What they didn’t know was that I was going to ask them in that very meeting if they would be interested in taking over the executive director position at Sci-Port. We had talked to other individuals about taking over the role of executive director, but contracting with a firm of numerous talented individuals seemed like a better fit for us.”

The board of directors has given the new management team creative license for some significant alterations in design with much of the content to undergo reinvention just in time for Sci-Port’s 20th anniversary. The board and PAG hope to keep the beloved facility relevant and exciting. However, the board plans to closely monitor money spent. “All such work will be done in accordance with a budget approved by the board of directors,” Lamb said.

Woods added, “Visitors can expect a new Sci-Port experience, with POP and the IMAX theater remaining. The emphasis on the new Sci-Port’s operation will be more so of an attraction as opposed to a museum, without sacrificing Sci-Port’s core values for STEAM-based education and community enrichment.”

PAG has already formulated its strategic game plan that encompasses reorganization of both venue operations and staff.

The plan also includes a major rebranding campaign to build new perspective and increase traffic.

Unfortunately, over 70 Sci-Port staff members are temporarily out of work with no guarantee they will be re-hired. A job fair is planned for November, but the entire staff structure is being evaluated and reorganized accordingly. Some previous Sci-Port positions could change or be eliminated, and the job fair will be open to the public. Lamb added, “All hiring will be done in accordance with a budget approved by the board of directors.”

As with the facility organization, the board will let the management team handle the details of the staff overhaul. “At this time, we’re still in the planning phase of the staffing reorganization,” Wood said. “However, we’ll do our best to bring back as many positions as feasible to the new operational structure.”

The new Shreveport Aquarium and Sci- Port Discovery Center should complement each other pretty well. “We’re uniquely positioned in downtown Shreveport with the infrastructure for a total family experience,” Wood said. “Sci-Port sits at the base of downtown with Shreveport Aquarium and Riverview Park across the street, and the J. Bennett Johnston Waterway Regional Visitor Center next door. Our vision is for our little piece of downtown to become a hub for not only resident families to visit, but also to provide an attractive area for visiting families as well.”

It sounds like this could be the answer Sci-Port Discovery Center and other downtown venues have needed for some time. “We’ll work with our neighbors to promote the area with joint events, ticketing programs and more.”

Sci-Port will remain open and operational through Sept. 4. At that point it will close long enough to “re-boot” the facility and its displays and exhibits. The estimated re-opening date is Dec. 31 for the annual TOAST fund-raising event.

“Sci-Port will remain a non-profit, subject to governance and management by the board of directors, and will remain committed to its charitable purpose of providing steam-based activities for the Ark-La-Tex and others,” Lamb said. “Only a few things will change. Instead of an individual serving as executive director, we have hired an experienced firm with more resources and skill-sets. Sci-Port will also have increased efficiency and we are going to deliver a better product to our patrons and our community.”

For updates visit www.sciport.org.

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