BY DANA DiFILIPPO
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Flood damage will speed the planned move of the Children's Museum of Cincinnati to Union Terminal, museum officials said Wednesday.
The museum originally planned to move from downtown's Longworth Hall into expanded space in the Museum Center at Union Terminal next year.
But this month's high waters destroyed a third of its exhibits, prompting the decision to relocate sooner, said Rich Sgritta, executive director. Among the exhibits ruined were the Baby Beach (a sand play area) and the Infant Aisle (an infant activity area).
Over the next three months, the most popular of the museum's undamaged exhibits will move temporarily into a 5,000-square-foot gallery in the Museum Center. They are expected to reopen to visitors July 1.
They will stay there until the planned expansion is done in 1998.
''This move will enable the Children's Museum to resume offering at least a portion of their exhibits and programs at the earliest date and in the most cost-effective manner when compared with rebuilding at Longworth Hall,'' said Dick Glover, Museum Center president.
Museum officials estimate that it would have cost $400,000 to reopen in the flooded hall.
Designs for the 30,000-square-foot permanent Children's Museum are still being developed.
Officials estimate the expansion will cost $7.5 million. A capital campaign will be launched this spring.
The Children's Museum opened in November 1994 for ages 1-12; it has attracted more than 250,000 visitors. Before the flood, it boasted seven major exhibit areas with more than 200 hands-on learning activities on three floors of rented space in Longworth Hall.
HOOPLA! an educational basketball program the Children's Museum planned to coincide with the NCAA 1997 Women's Final Four Basketball Tournament, will open Wednesday at Union Terminal.