The highly-anticipated opening of a new children's museum at Buffalo's Canalside is only weeks away.
Explore & More is putting the finishing touches on the new facility. Officials, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, dedicated the facility Thursday morning.
The four-story, 43,000 square-foot museum, with a giant tricycle sculpture on its roof, bears the name of Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Through a $6 million matching grant, the foundation of the founder and longtime owner of the Buffalo Bills was a key benefactor in making the new facility a reality. Wilson's widow, Mary Wilson, was among the dignitaries on hand for the dedication.
The four-story museum replaces Explore & More's longtime home in East Aurora, where, until recently, it operated a beloved, much smaller play space for 25 years. While the old museum was more geared toward younger kids, CEO Michelle Urbanczyk says the new one will appeal to a wider age range.
"We're going from 5,000 square-feet to 43,000 square-feet, so we're able to have a broader museum. We're able to grow up a little bit. The other museum was really aged 3-6. This is really zero all the way to 12," Urbanczk said.
Urbancyzk says the more centrally-located museum will attract families from a greater radius.
"We're so happy to be at Canalside. We're part of the growth, the redevelopment. We've been asked to play in the playground and we're so excited to be there. And, we brought our toys," she said.
The new Explore & More will feature several hands-on exhibits with Western New York-based themes. It will also offer educational programming throughout the year. To avoid having kids wait in long lines, a time ticket system will be employed. Once open, general admission tickets will cost $11.
There is still no official date for the museum's opening. One section of the building is still being worked on. But Urbancyzk says many kids and community groups will be invited inside over the next few weeks to get an early look, in what she called a "soft phase."
Urbanczyk says the new museum will employ around 60 people, up from ten in East Aurora.