God, I loved that place! To give my wife a break, I’d pack my then two young boys into that well-worn green Dodge Caravan and we’d head down to that hands-on museum on Benton Street to spend another glorious wintery Sunday morning. We’d generally have the place to ourselves and they’d run from exhibit to exhibit completely enthralled with all the possibilities.
They particularly enjoyed the tornado machine, being encased in the giant bubble, and the magnetic and electricity experiments. When my wife joined us for a Sunday sojourn, I’d get to spend some time at the tennis ball speedometer machine doing my damndest to beat the 80-mph mark. Then my arm would be sore for the next three days.
Typically being one of the first families there, it was a lot of fun to watch all the eager parents with their wide-eyed children file into the building, because SciTech was one of those rare places where everyone was always happy. Three whirlwind hours later and we’d head to the gift shop to make a purchase before heading off to grab some lunch in downtown Aurora.
Shortly after the first couple of visits we became Scti-Tech members and remained so until the interests of latter teenage boys inevitably shifted onto other things.
But now, 34 long years later, the wonder ensconced within that stately former Post Office is gone for good because the adults involved couldn’t behave better than the children who will never forget those magical visits.
On the SciTech side there was the kind of dysfunctional board and leadership that inexplicably closed the building for two long years while persistently failing to rise above their pettiness and put the facility first. I don’t want to get into all of the sordid details – they’re readily available on the Net – but questionable executive directors, internal civil wars, and mass staff firings were among the absurdly unnecessary lowlights.
I understand closing the museum in the early COVID days, but there was no good reason to keep it shuttered after the Governor moved to reopen the state. It was a beyond boneheaded decision that had no basis in medical reality. Not only should an institution of science have taken the lead during a pandemic, but children desperately needed the comfort of knowing how the scientific process works.
Worse yet, from the descriptions of the folks who attended SciTech’s Last Look event on June 3rd, it’s clear they let the museum go to rot during that closure making it that much more difficult for it to reopen.
And while I can understand the City of Aurora’s anger over supporting a board that reveled in making bad decisions, to take advantage of their lapses to turn that building into just another brewpub is another shining example of Mayor Richard Irvin’s pay-to-play proclivities. I wonder what kind of campaign contribution Hizzoner will soon be seeing from that group?
Aurora needs another brewpub like I need another angry reader.
The City says this closure is part of their greater effort to make downtown Aurora an entertainment destination. But the vast irony there is, with the exception of the Paramount, which is rapidly fading into a “woke” insignificance (I’ll never darken that doorway again), SciTech brought more families into downtown Aurora than any other entity attracting up to 75,000 visitors a year. That’s more than the population of the Tri-Cities combined, and despite what the Mayor and his lackeys will try and tell you, no restaurant can begin to match those numbers.
SciTech’s “leadership” claims they’ll continue to function as a “virtual” STEM “partner” for local schools, park districts and libraries, but that’s just a shadow of what was once a landmark institution. And if anyone believes the group responsible for its demise will make that kind of transition work, then I have a bridge over the Fox River I’d be willing to part with for next to nothing.
Sure, there are nearby children’s museums, but short of Chicago’s Science and Industry, there was nothing like SciTech which was consistently rated as one of the best Chicago area attractions.
But now it’s gone and it’s never coming back.
I suppose I can take some solace in the memories of my family’s innumerable visits, but the truly tragic thing is thinking about the children and parents who will never get to experience a Sunday morning at SciTech who will never know what they’re missing.
My love affair with the City of Light began when we moved out to Geneva in the mid-90s, poor private and public decisions making has eroded it over the years, and it officially ended with SciTech’s closing.
Shame on you SciTech board, shame on you Mayor Irvin, and shame on the City of Aurora for not only allowing this to happen on your watch, but aiding and abetting this travesty every step of the way.
Aurora certainly isn’t the city it used to be.