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Commissioners Vote To Give Troubled Exploris $500,000

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RALEIGH, N.C. — To date, the county and state have given Exploris in the neighborhood of $60 million.

Monday, the nonprofit asked for more money -- and it got it.

But, with attendance slipping, is the museum a money pit or a good investment?

Wake county had set aside $500,000 for the Exploris museum, but the commissioners wanted a progress report.

More than six years after opening, Raleigh's Exploris Museum still struggles to find its identity and audience.

"...People need to be patient," said Gordon Smith, former Exploris board chairman in 2002, defending slipping attendance numbers.

But, Monday, talk is different.

"At some point your patience does have to end," said Wake County Commissioner Herb Council.

Since 2003, commissioners have cut the annual allotment from well over $2 million to about $1.6 million.

With seven months on the job, the president blamed no traveling exhibits and higher gas prices for a drop this year in attendance.

Aggressive fundraising plans impressed commissioners.

"One of the issues is that nothing ever changes in Exploris," said Bonnie Hancock, Exploris president. "But every Saturday there will be a new event occurring at 2 p.m."

By a 5-2 vote, the commissioners approved the $500,000 for the remainder of the fiscal year.

"I think it was a failed experiment," said Tony Gurley, Wake County Commission Chairman. "I think they have not given up on that experiment and they've started to turn the corner. So they can change it. It's up to them."

The one positive in the area is the next-door neighbor, Imax, which is connected to Exploris.

Some feature films like Harry Potter or the Polar Express have been sold out, so the Imax continues to be successful.

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