FL - Comptuer Glitches Delay Museum's Reopening

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Computer Bugs Delay Museum's Reopening posted 07/09/00 By Patty Allen-Jones STAFF WRITER Operators of Sarasota's hands-on science museum want people to come to build and fly paper airplanes, construct robotic cars, freeze images of themselves on a white screen and test how sound travels across a room.

But not yet.

The reopening of the Gulfcoast Wonder & Imagination Zone at the Blivas Science & Technology Center has been delayed again.

Operators had hoped to have opened G.WIZ by now at its new location, 1001 Boulevard of the Arts, in the bayfront building that once housed the Selby Public Library.

Difficulty obtaining permits delayed a late December/early January opening. This time the delay is the result of staff members waiting for the bugs to be worked out of the new computers.

Some staffers also need to complete training. And there are a few glitches in some exhibits that still need to be worked out.

"We want to make sure the whole place is ready to go, staff and technology," said Larry Schweber, president of G.WIZ's board of directors. "We're taking each step one at a time."

Schweber said it could be as long as 90 days before the museum reopens. The board wants to have a grand opening ceremony in the fall.

G.WIZ closed in July 1999 and put its exhibits in storage after losing its month-to-month lease at the Airport Mall, just east of Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. The owner found a new tenant.

The center's new home is just around the corner from the site where it originated in October 1991 with 10 exhibits spread over 1,000 square feet.

The museum and the city, which owns the 33,000-square-foot former library building, signed an agreement in January 1998 giving the museum a 20-year renewable lease for $1 per year.

The delays haven't kept the museum from serving young people this summer.

Construction crews completed work on the classrooms and playground area for the summer program, Schweber said. That work was done June 7.

As many as 5,000 young people are expected to either attend summer camp or visit the center on field trips arranged by the Sarasota County Parks and Recreation Department, churches, the Boys & Girls Clubs, Girls Inc. and the YMCA. They have been testing the exhibits to determine whether any adjustments are needed, said Steve Davis, G.WIZ's director of exhibits and operations.

Even when the museum reopens, construction crews still will be working on the 100-seat theater, Schweber said. Plans are to have an indoor butterfly garden, and expand some walls inside the museum to provide more space for exhibits.

Some of the traveling exhibits that the museum hopes to display may not arrive in time, though.

"(The fall reopening) will be a sneak preview of where we want to be in another 10 months of work," Davis said.


-- (Dee360Degree@aol.com), July 10, 2000

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