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The Eugene Science Center has eyes on EWEB's riverfront building

Science Center -->EWEB
Tim Scott
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The Eugene Science Center envisions a world-class space for exhibits and classrooms on the Willamette River.

What better place to learn about water and power than an old utility building? The Eugene Science Center has eyes on the Eugene Water and Electric, or EWEB building near the Willamette River.

Executive Director Tim Scott said in 2019, the Eugene Science Center broke attendance records and had to turn down requests for field trips. Although the pandemic closed it for 18 months, he said the center is more than ready for growth.

“When I got here in 2016, I didn’t come here to kind of maintain the status quo of what was then called the Science Factory," he told KLCC. "I was curious about why the museum was so small in such a large community.”

Scott said a spacious location near downtown would allow for community events, school programs and rotating exhibits that partner with local innovators. “I think it would bring in tourism," he said. "It would bring families back downtown, they could spend full days downtown instead of having to drive up to Portland.”

EWEB will put out a request for proposals early next year. Scott said if they secure the building, they’d need major public and private funding, but it would be an asset for generations to come.

The location in Alton Baker Park was originally envisioned as a museum complex. In the late 1970’s, U of O’s Natural History Museum and the Lane County Historical Museum were slated to join the Science Factory, but due to an economic downturn, that never happened. Scott said they’ve been in the 1979 building ever since, and the area’s population has doubled, and attendance has grown by a factor of 10.

There’s precedent for the link between power companies and science centers. Scott said OMSI moved to the Portland PG&E building in 1992, and a new science center opened in Sacramento this week, also in a revamped PG&E building.

A community survey about the Eugene Science Center at EWEB is online, here.

Karen Richards has been a KLCC reporter since the fall of 2012.