Editor’s Note: this is a developing story.
It’s a sad day for Champaign-Urbana area families.
The Orpheum Children’s Science Museum board of directors announced today that the museum will not reopen to the public, and the 100+-year-old building has been put up for sale.
The challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic were too much for the museum to overcome.
“We are saddened and frustrated to be sharing this message; we cannot meet our mission and the maintenance of this historic theatre,” the statement said.
The Orpheum announced in January it was reducing hours and seeking funding to “keep its doors open.” But the 26-year staple of downtown Champaign couldn’t overcome the mandated closures due to March’s coronavirus pandemic.
The Orpheum had been Champaign-Urbana’s only children’s museum since Spark Museum + Play Cafe in Urbana closed in March 2018.
Read the Orpheum’s entire statement here.
The Orpheum Theatre building is more than 100 years old, and while significant renovations have been made to it, more needed to be done – and it was costly to maintain.
The Orpheum Children’s Science Museum was a multi-faceted destination for families, as it hosted birthday parties, school’s day out events, “Night Out” events, and camps. It also created STEM-focused extracurricular activities for school-age children, including science club for girls, robotics clubs, and LEGO clubs.
For more than 20 years, the Orpheum hosted an annual “Kids Building Fair” in May, with outdoor activities that celebrated the community’s rich heritage in architecture, historical preservation and the building trades. It gave children hands-on experiences with building materials and other special activities.
According to its history information on the website, the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum grew out of the effort to save the historic Orpheum Theatre building from demolition. Originally called “Discovery Place,” the name was changed to reflect the building’s history.