New Children’s Museum of Tacoma to be admission-free

When the Children’s Museum of Tacoma opens the doors at 1501 Pacific Avenue on Jan. 14, 2012, admission will be free, thanks to a significant gift from the KeyBank Foundation. The KeyBank Foundation’s $250,000 naming gift will enable the museum to offer free admission for the first five years of operation, helping deliver equal access to the museum’s educational play and life skill-building programs to all South Sound children. With activation of its “Pay As You Will” admission program, the Children’s Museum of Tacoma will become the first privately operated children’s museum in the country to offer free admission.

This past year, the museum signed a contract to lease 8,700 square feet on the first floor of the United Way building and launched a $7 million capital campaign to open the doors to an all-new museum; eliminate financial barriers to attendance by offering “Pay As You Will” admission; and sustain the museum’s free early learning program, Play to Learn, in the community.

“I am proud that, because of the KeyBank Foundation’s gift, no family will have to pay admission to visit the Children’s Museum of Tacoma for the next five years,” said Steve, Maxwell, president of KeyBank in the South Puget Sound. “Our gift means that the cost of admission will no longer be a barrier to any child who can benefit from the museum’s impressive educational and skill-building programs.”

Early childhood development research suggests that the greatest return on investment comes from providing services to children in their first five years of life. But since 34 percent of the families living in Pierce County fall into a low- to- moderate income range, museum programs might not be affordable for many families. KeyBank’s gift is meant to directly address the South Sound’s relatively high poverty rate by providing opportunities for future success to the youngest members of the community.

To date, the museum has raised just over 37 percent of the $7 million campaign total.

“KeyBank’s gift is a substantial step toward achieving our free admission goals,” noted Capital Campaign Co-chair Joanne Bamford. “We can’t thank them enough for recognizing the power of play and their support for young children and families in our area.”

The “Pay As You Will” free admission program presented by KeyBank Foundation will be effective when the new museum opens. Meanwhile, an additional gift from KeyBank enables families to gain free admission for the remainder of this year by checking out Key to Play Passes from area libraries. Key to Play Passes allow four people of any age to explore the Museum free of charge and can be checked out at Pierce County Libraries and Tacoma Public Libraries with a valid library card. Military personnel and families can access the Key to Play Pass at Ft. Lewis Book Patch Children’s Library and the Crittenberger Library with a Ft. Lewis or McChord AFB ID/Library card. For more information, visit http://www.PlayTacoma.org .