British Columbia

$8M loss threatens to temporarily close Science World

An 85 per cent revenue hit since the start of the pandemic in March is threatening to close the science museum — at least for now.

At 300 visitors a day, traffic is down 88 per cent and not sustainable, company says

Science World may be forced to close temporarily after losing an estimated $8.2-million in revenue since March, due to the pandemic. As of Sept. 14 Science World has reduced opening hours to Thursday to Sunday only. (Yvette Brend/CBC News Vancouver)

Science World has been hit hard by the pandemic losing $8.2-million — 85 per cent of its revenue — since March.

It's a loss that is threatening to close the non-profit, hands-on science museum's doors, at least temporarily.

The interactive attraction housed in a glittery disco ball-shaped home at the end of False Creek is usually the go-to place for parents and teachers on a rainy spring-break day.

Last spring, Science World was forced to close on March 14 due to the rise of COVID-19 infections. The operation reopened, but since August traffic has been slow.

Science World first reopened for members only and then invited essential workers and their families to explore for free. Members of the general public were welcomed back as of Aug. 1. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

 "A massive blow for us obviously. We rely heavily on our visitors coming through the building," said Teresa Virani, vice president of marketing and visitor experience for Science World.

Massive blow

The museum which opened in 1989 offers visitors a myriad of stations where they can touch and experiment with objects to learn about science. School trips often end up at Science World.

Back in July, Science World launched a catchy "The world needs more nerds" campaign featuring a school photo of Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry at seven, looking very earnest in spectacles.

But since reopening in August, traffic has been down by as much as 88 per cent, with an average of 300 people walking through the doors each day.

"That's just not sustainable for us long-term," said Virani.

Science World staff got creative and has been lauded for efforts to revamp the hands-on fun so it's safe, despite the threat of COVID-19.  Visitors book tickets in advance and are offered a timed entry to keep crowds low. Masks are mandatory (if you are over age six) and there are enhanced cleaning protocols.

Families are invited to Towers of Tomorrow, encouraging visitors to build Lego towers with pre-sanitized blocks in a well spaced environment.

"The good news is that people who are coming are having a great time. We've received high praise for our health and safety measures," said Virani.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry became the poster child for Science World in its July campaign called: 'The world needs more nerds.' (Science World)

 Despite concerted efforts, the crowds have not returned. Virani says Science World has laid off 40 part-time staff and may need to let more go.

If the numbers don't pick up and no further funding is found — through government funding or donations — Science World will be forced to close, at least temporarily.

"We are hoping that the government will step in further, and we appreciate that there's many people in the same situation," she said.

As of this week, Science World has reduced its hours and will now only be open Thursday until Sunday.

Visitors will be expected to maintain a physical distance of two metres from staff and other visitors and to use hand sanitizer provided upon entry and exit when visiting Science World. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

About the Author

Yvette Brend is a Vancouver journalist. or on Twitter or Instagram @ybrend