In downtown Rockingham, there’s a new kid on the block who’s a ton of fun.
After much anticipation, Discovery Place KIDS—Rockingham opened its doors for the first time last weekend.
It was a cold, wet and miserable day outside on Saturday, but you’d never have known that if you were inside this new colorful wonderland. This state-of-the-art interactive children’s museum had everyone, no matter the age, wide-eyed and astounded.
As a downtown neighbor, let us here at the Daily Journal extend a warm greeting: Hello, DPK, welcome to the neighborhood.
Discovery Place KIDS has seen a rebirth of a once vacant storefront, as money, time and talent turned an abandoned commercial building — cold and empty — into a vibrant, warm and wonderful venue for children and the people who love them.
And while DPK has been a shot of life into the building at 233 E. Washington St., it means a tremendous adrenaline rush for the old downtown area.
Like thousands of downtowns across America, Rockingham’s main street blocks have suffered from a fickle economy, and the draw of commercial strips outside the traditional brick and mortar facades that made up the shops of yesterday’s business districts.
But Rockingham has fought back and like a reclaimed and cleaned-up industrial site, there are new shoots of green grass — new growth, new life, to join other living and breathing entities downtown, from Henry’s Uptown Cafe to the Arts Council to the fitness center and more.
This week we had a story about a woman who’s opening a consignment store next door to Henry’s, with a focus on children’s clothing. And so this is just the beginning of more good things to come.
Five years in the making, the Discovery Place KIDS–Rockingham project was launched by a leadership gift of $6.6 million from the Cole Foundation and the Richmond Community Foundation, a visionary contribution that was facilitated by Foundation For The Carolinas. Those funds are intended for the long-term sustainability of the museum.
The City of Rockingham is the facility partner, and purchased the former McKenzie Furniture building to be renovated as the permanent home of Discovery Place KIDS–Rockingham. As the museum partner, Discovery Place, Inc. developed the exhibitions and educational components and will manage day-to-day operations. A campaign cabinet led by honorary chairmen Russell Bennett and Neal Cadieu guided the community funding effort on behalf of Discovery Place KIDS–Rockingham, raising awareness of the project and garnering widespread support from corporations, foundations, professionals and individuals throughout the Sandhills. Discovery Place also received a $2 million challenge grant in early 2012 from The Leon Levine Foundation.
“We are very excited that our community was such a great fit for Discovery Place, Inc.’s expansion outside the Charlotte market,” said Steve Morris, mayor of Rockingham. “We know this new museum will change the face of Rockingham with a reach far beyond the Sandhills region and we anticipate a long, successful partnership.”
So, welcome Discovery Place KIDS, we’ve been waiting for you.