Discovery Place KIDS-Rockingham Marks Start of Construction

Discovery Place KIDS - Rockingham

“Blast Off” community event on March 23 celebrates next phase of development

ROCKINGHAM –Discovery Place will officially kick off construction of Discovery Place KIDS-Rockingham on March 23 at a community Blast Off event that will celebrate children, families, learning and philanthropy. Discovery Place KIDS-Rockingham, the newest Museum in the Discovery Place family and the only one of its kind in the region, will encourage development of essential childhood skills through creative play and learning activities for children and their caregivers.

“It’s a great feeling to join with our friends in the Sandhills to commemorate what we have achieved so far together and to celebrate the start of construction on Discovery Place KIDS-Rockingham,” said John Mackay, president and CEO of Discovery Place, Inc. “Before you know it, we will be opening the doors on a new era of possibilities for the children of this region and much of the credit for that goes to the diligence, generosity and hospitality of the people who live here.”

The Blast Off celebration, hosted by the Discovery Place KIDS-Rockingham Campaign Cabinet, will take place from 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. on Friday, March 23 at the future home of the Museum; 233 E. Washington St., Rockingham. The schedule of events includes:

  • 11:00 a.m. Blast Off begins; Discovery Place ScienceReach team on site
  • with hands-on demonstrations for all ages 
  • 11:30 a.m. Fairview Elementary School singing performance 
  • 11:35 a.m.– noon Blast Off remarks and surprise experiment, “Creating the Future” Key Participants:  
    • Russell Bennett and Neal Cadieu, Campaign Co-Chairs
    • Chris Cecil, Chair, Board of Trustees, Discovery Place, Inc.
    • Tom Lawrence, Executive Director, The Leon Levine Foundation
    • John Mackay, President & CEO, Discovery Place, Inc.
    • Michael Marsicano, President, Foundation For The Carolinas
    • Gene McLaurin, Mayor, Town of Rockingham
    • Kenneth Robinette, Chair, Richmond County Commission
    • and, introducing Can Can, Discovery Place KIDS mascot
  • Noon LJ Bell Elementary School singing performance
  • Noon – 1:00 p.m. ScienceReach demonstrations continue for public

Following a community response to the first Discovery Place KIDS which opened in Huntersville, N.C. in October 2010, Discovery Place, Inc. began exploring opportunities to expand into other communities. The Foundation For the Carolinas, based in Charlotte, engaged Discovery Place in a conversation about a possible site in Richmond County and coordinated a research effort to determine the practicality and feasibility of the area as a Discovery Place KIDS location. With strong encouragement from the local community and overwhelmingly positive feedback, The Foundation For the Carolinas facilitated the commitment of a total of $6.6 million in funds from the Cole Foundation and the Richmond Community Foundation as part of a comprehensive campaign to build the new Museum. 

The Richmond Community and Cole Foundations, whose gifts will help ensure long-term sustainability, are one piece in a trio of project partners. The second, the City of Rockingham, purchased the former McKenzie Furniture building on E. Washington St. in downtown Rockingham as the new home of the Museum and will oversee up-fit and future maintenance of the building. Discovery Place, Inc., as the Museum partner, is currently developing exhibitions and educational components and will manage day-to-day operations. 
The Campaign Cabinet for Discovery Place KIDS-Rockingham, charged with leadership in procuring funds for the project in the Sandhills area, continues to play a crucial role in the successful development of the Museum. Led by honorary co-chairs Russell E. Bennett and J. Neal Cadieu, the Cabinet has mobilized regional communities and secured essential local gifts for the campaign by providing visionary leadership and heightening awareness of the project.

“We are ‘blasting off’ on a new learning adventure so that our children may touch the stars,” said Bennett. “The children who live and play here are the nucleus of this region and we are thrilled about the vivid, wonderful learning experiences that await them.”

The Leon Levine Foundation helped the campaign reach a significant milestone in January 2012 with a $2 million gift that was part of a challenge grant set forth by the Foundation in May 2011. The funding challenge set a benchmark goal for the comprehensive campaign for Discovery Place KIDS to raise $9.6 million by December 31, 2011 in order to receive the gift. The Museum not only met the objective but the public challenge served as a catalyst for increased community awareness and giving. 

“The extraordinary leadership and philanthropy of Rockingham native son Leon Levine, The Foundation for the Carolinas, the Cole Foundation and Richmond Community Foundation, and the parents, educators, elected officials and Museum contributors have helped us raise over $12 million to date,” said Cadieu. “While we begin construction today, we are already eagerly looking forward to the community phase of our fundraising that will culminate the campaign and strengthen the investment in our future.”

Even as construction commences on the Discovery Place KIDS-Rockingham building, a community phase of the capital campaign will be initiated to secure gifts to help meet the campaign objectives for the facility, exhibitions and endowment. The Museum is projected to open in Spring 2013.

About Discovery Place KIDS
Discovery Place KIDS is an innovative model in regional children’s museums developed by Discovery Place, Inc., the parent company of Discovery Place and Charlotte Nature Museum.  Discovery Place KIDS is built on the theme of “I CAN” and offers unique opportunities for learning through play for children and their parents or caregivers. For more information about Discovery Place KIDS, call 704-372-6261 or visit 

About Discovery Place
One of the top hands-on science museums in the nation, Discovery Place provides ever-changing, entertaining facilities that engage the public in the active exploration of science and nature.  More than a half-million people from all over the United States visit Discovery Place, its IMAX Dome Theatre and Charlotte Nature Museum each year.  In June 2010, the Museum completed an 18-month, $31.6 million renovation, resulting in a completely transformed and re-imagined Museum with all-new interactive exhibits.  Discovery Place is supported, in part, with operating support from the Arts & Science Council. Connect with Discovery Place on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. For more information about Discovery Place, call (704)372-6261 or visit  

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