By Kevin Collison
Dinosaurs Revealed!, Union Station’s first foray into creating its own major exhibition, has torn through attendance projections like a hungry T. Rex, breaking the 100,000 visitor milestone last weekend and on track to hitting 150,000 by Christmas.
The bottom line benefit has been huge too.
The exhibit, which opened June 29, has crushed its attendance break-even mark of 65,000, paying off all its production and marketing costs, and generating more than a half-million dollars in net revenues so far.
“We’re way over our projections,” said George Guastello, president and CEO of Union Station. “It’s exceeding the pace of other exhibitions. Pompeii drew 140,000, huge numbers, but that was over six months.”
The additional revenue generated by Dinosaurs will be plowed back into maintaining the building, which celebrated its centennial in 2014.
With the 20th anniversary of the restoration of Union Station coming up next year, time has taken its toll on the earlier renovation work. It will take an estimated $1.4 million just to repair its flat roofs.
“Every dollar visitors are spending on this exhibition is fixing the house,” Guastello said. “You’ll not be hearing us say we need tax dollars.
“If I can pay for major maintenance for 20 years, we won’t need to make huge cuts to survive.”
But it’s not just about the additional money and visitors the Dinosaurs exhibition has brought to Union Station.
It’s being praised for its quality and Guastello said other science centers around the country have made inquiries about staging it at their facilities.
“It’s been great with educators who say it’s a real mixture of science and entertainment,” he said.
Union Station designed the exhibition with the help of the University of Kansas Paleontological Institute and the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
The 26 animatronic dinosaurs were then specially built in China, an introductory film was produced and interactive exhibits designed.
“We produced it, we designed it and we own it,” Guastello said.
The 100,000th visitors, Heath and Ruth Catt of Lee’s Summit, visited the show along with their two boys on Saturday morning.
They won a Union Station Annual Membership, free passes to Dinosaurs a “Book of Bones” from the DinoShop, a cast replica T-Rex Tooth and a genuine piece of dinosaur bone.
Guastello said the show has had a strong regional draw with visitors coming primarily from a 250 mile radius although there has been some international visitors too.
To freshen up the exhibition heading into the holiday season, an new “augmented reality” component is being added.
“You’ll be able to see yourself with the dinosaurs on a giant screen and be able to move with them,” Guastello said.
As for how much longer Dinosaurs will be roaring at Union Station, the exhibition will have to end at some point to free up space.
“The goal is take it through Christmas and evaluate whether to extend,” he said.
If another science center decides to display the show, it could depart as early as February.
If not, the latest its run can be extended is spring. Union Station has plans for summer and fall exhibitions and it takes almost a month to disassemble the exhibit.
General admission for all ages is $15 on weekdays and $17.95 on weekends. Union Station members pay $12.50. Group rates also are available.
Hours are Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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