Tourism grant awarded to interactive science centre

Nanaimo tourism officials hope to get a big bang for their buck with the city’s first hands-on science studio.

Tourism Nanaimo has announced close to $30,000 in cash incentives to help launch tourism attraction ideas like a new science studio and the community’s first legal mountain bike trail.

According to Dan Brady, chairman of the Nanaimo tourism leadership committee, the city is still more of a stop over than vacation destination and needs more attractions to lure visitors. The gap has Tourism Nanaimo awarding up to $125,000 a year to different tourism ideas that could set Nanaimo apart from competing Island communities.

The latest funding round included $20,000 for a science studio by the Nanaimo Science and Sustainability Society, a group looking to inspire a love and understanding of science among children. The not-for-profit plans to use the money to create exhibits for an interim space while it searches for a permanent home.

Another $5,000 was given to the Summertime Blues Festival for a feasibility study that will look at growing the event and $4,950 was given to the Nanaimo Mountain Bike Club to build the community’s first legal mountain bike trail.

“From the tourism destination side of things [funding the science studio] was a no-brainer,” Brady said. “What they are doing already and where they want to go we see this thing as really, really having the opportunity to be a tourist attraction when it gets going.

“When you talk to families that have kids [you] hear ... about them all the time going to Vancouver to go to the science centre. People will stay in Nanaimo to do that one attraction.”

The science studio, slated to be designed with the help of Vancouver’s Telus World of Science, is the brainchild of co-founders and scientists Liz DeMattia and Sue Durnin. The duo set up the science club just over three years ago and launched its first science programs in city parks in 2012. Within a year, the initiative has bubbled over into schools and day cares with Lego robotic programs and workshops around flight and biology, and a new mobile science van. An interim science studio is the next stepping stone to a larger, permanent science centre, said DeMattia, executive director of the science society.

“We are so excited about the tourism funding,” she said. “Without [it] ... the possibility of having a science studio for families in this region wouldn’t be happening this year.”

The tourism money pays for 20 per cent of projects’ total cost.

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