Lincoln Children’s Museum’s planned improvements include science center, outdoor play structure

November 15, 2018

Downtown Lincoln’s popular Children’s Museum has some ideas for improvements that could include an outdoor climbing structure and a lower-level science center for older kids.

But first things first.

The Children’s Museum must study its fundraising potential, which it plans to do starting in January and then begin a capital campaign by mid-summer, according to Executive Director Tara Knuth. If all goes well, the first phase of improvements would include resurfacing its east parking lot, and putting in fencing and an exit tower from the lower level to the new play area.

A custom-designed artistic climbing structure, which would light up at night, would be put into the former parking area to the east of the museum in phase 2. Then — depending on fundraising results — a science center for kids ages 8 to 12 would be built into a lower level of the museum that was formerly a storage area below the parking lot.

Because the Children’s Museum is in the Capitol’s shadow, adjacent to Nebraska’s Centennial Mall and the statue of Chief Standing Bear, Knuth and DLR Group architect John Badami sought an endorsement Tuesday from the Nebraska Capitol Environs Commission, which granted its approval 6-0.

The role of the commission is to protect the setting of the state’s landmark Capitol. The group consists of seven volunteers: Chairman Jeff Searcy, Kile Johnson, Mary Campbell, Gene Crump, Karen Nalow, Ann Post and John Sinclair.

The one-of-a-kind play structure, which could be up to 30-to-35 feet tall, would be designed by Luckey Climbers, which offers adventures while challenging kids to problem-solve and think spatially. The structures are made of bent plywood or rotationally molded plastic climbing pads suspended on cables from steel pipes.

Knuth and Badami said there isn’t another Luckey Climbers structure in any adjacent state to Nebraska at this time, so it would be a unique draw for the Children’s Museum. Luckey Climbers has been around since 1985, installing the structures internationally, and has a good reputation, Knuth said.

Besides the play structure, the museum could have outdoor space in the play area for camps, fundraisers and other activities in and around the climber, Badami said.

He told the Capitol Environs Commission the Children’s Museum, in coming up with its improvement plans, has been sensitive to its location adjacent to Centennial Mall and the Standing Bear sculpture. The edge of the outdoor improvements would keep in mind the design standards of the mall.

“There’s a number of ways we can accomplish what the museum would like to do, as well as be a very sensitive neighbor to Centennial Mall,” he said.

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