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Room to Grow

While some institutions are feeling the squeeze, the Children's Museum of Tacoma is stretching out. Currently housed in a modest space on Broadway, TCM recently announced that it will soon move into expansive new digs on the first floor of United Way of Pierce County's historic Betye Martin Baker Human Service Center.

The move will deepen the museum’s already well-established partnership with United Way, and the new space – an astonishing 8,700 square feet – will provide more space for programming and activities. Plans for the reconceived museum, which is scheduled to open on January 14, 2012, show that the space will be used for creative play and will also include a café, a dig pit, toddler tree houses, tide pools and a ship.

This is all very well for those who can afford the six-dollar admission fee, you might say. To which the museum replies, come one, come all. Admission will be free for at least the first five years, courtesy of a $250,000 donation from KeyBank.

The aim of the gift is to offer the opportunities that the museum has been providing for years to a larger cross-section of the population. The hope is that children from the 34 percent of Pierce County families with low to moderate incomes will be able to benefit from the social and intellectual skills learned through the museum’s activities and lead Tacoma to a brighter future.

"One of the things that drove our decision was preparing our kids for the future and the role that childhood education has in achieving future economic self-sufficiency," said regional KeyBank president Steve Maxwell in a statement released by the museum.

The museum also cites benefits to the city, including increased foot traffic to downtown businesses – not to mention the laughter of children.

See more in the March 2011 issue   →