Updated: Dec 27, 2019
Minnesota Children’s Museum of Rochester plans to grow into a larger space at Apache Mall, further enriching the community by providing more opportunities for families to experience learning through play.
With a planned summer 2020 opening, the all-new play space will feature a new name: Spark. Visitors will explore a variety of interactive exhibits, including an immersive climbing structure, an international bazaar and a one-of-a-kind water play experience.
Spark will offer 7,000-square-feet of space for exhibits and programming, double the size of the existing museum, which has served more than 250,000 visitors since opening in River Center Plaza in 2012.
“Rochester is home to a growing number of young families,” said Melissa Brinkman, co-chair of the museum’s community board. “Moving to Apache Mall will allow us to have an even bigger impact for local residents and visitors with our exhibits and programming.”
The existing Minnesota Children’s Museum of Rochester location will remain open through Feb 16, 2020.
Spark is a unique concept that brings together exhibits, programs and local outreach opportunities, making it an important part of Rochester’s future. Spark is about reigniting the love of play, asking questions, exploring and connecting with those around us.
Playful learning will be at the heart of the new Spark experiences, along with three focus areas: STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math), health and well-being, and cultural connections.
“The new space will be filled with exciting and immersive experiences that reflect our focus areas, where the senses are fully engaged through hands-on exploration,” Sherden said.
The new exhibits include:
Immersive Climber -- A vertical maze with platforms, pipes and netting to encourage exploration, confidence and imaginative play.
Our World Bazaar -- A vibrant role-play space with a pretend cafe, shops and other elements designed to reflect the cultural richness of Rochester’s diverse community.
WaterWays -- A structure with a dam, turbine, tubes and troughs where children explore the principles of water power.
Spark admission will be $9 for ages 1 and up. Annual family memberships will start at $99.
We have announced a fundraising campaign to pay for the move and the new exhibits. Initial
contributions from over 30 individuals, businesses and organizations have brought the organization 70 percent toward a goal of $2.6 million.
Fundraising efforts will continue in the community, focusing on raising additional capital from corporate and individual sponsors to further grow the visitor experience.
“The Rochester community needs to retain and attract new families to our area to maintain and grow our vibrant economy,” Sherden said. “Rochester and Olmsted County are routinely recognized for the quality of life that exists in our area and as one of the best places in the country to raise a family.
Spark will be an asset in attracting families to the area.” Please consider taking part in the growth and sustainment of Spark. We are a space for you - we are your community, your friends, family and neighbors. Please join hands with us and help us continue providing a special place of play for this community. To learn more about Spark or become a partner, please visit SparkRochesterMN.org
When Spark opens, the organization will be a separate entity from Minnesota Children’s Museum.
Operating as a separate nonprofit organization will enable Spark to serve the distinct needs of the Rochester community, said Beth Sherden, director of Minnesota Children’s Museum of Rochester.
“The partnership with Minnesota Children’s Museum provided a great opportunity to bring a children’s museum to the Rochester community,” Sherden said. “We have thrived for the past seven years and now it’s time to create our own organization, one fully grounded in the needs of our community.”
Dianne Krizan, president of Minnesota Children’s Museum, said the satellite model gave the Rochester museum access to expertise and resources that helped fuel growth during the organization’s critical early years.
“By working together, Minnesota Children’s Museum and Minnesota Children’s Museum of Rochester incubated a wonderful community asset,” Krizan said. “We’re proud that the Rochester organization has achieved this important milestone.”
Minnesota Children’s Museum of Rochester, having outgrown its existing storefront space, has been looking for a long-term home for more than a year. Apache Mall is an ideal location, Sherden said. The mall is centrally located, with ample free parking and convenient access to public transportation. It’s also a popular spot where families feel welcome.
“We are thrilled to welcome Spark to Apache Mall,” said Kim Bradley, general manager at the mall. “We are constantly evolving to meet the ever-changing needs of our customers – this goes far beyond retail.
The addition of Spark will bring an entirely new offering to our community and we look forward to seeing our littlest visitors learning and playing in the space.”
The community board chose the name Spark after months of research and community input. “We feel that Spark captures what we’re trying to do – ignite learning through play,” Brinkman said.
The organization is rebranding to better reflect its mission and audience.
“Children’s museums are traditionally thought of as being just for younger kids,” Sherden said. “Our goal is to cater to young learners of all ages.”
Museum members will get their expiration dates extended by five months to make up for the closure period. Members with questions can visit the museum’s membership webpage.