Feeling antsy

A better-organized person might not have started a Web site and blog just before going on vacation — I’ve successfully forgotten much of what I learned in the first two days — but there it is. I wanted to wade in. Now I start again.

There’s been a lot of discussion about the plan to move the Chicago Children’s Museum from its Navy Pier site to Grant Park. While there are many reasons why this is a bad idea, let’s look at a few positives.

First, why shouldn’t the city, via the park district, get a cut of the $9 a head the museum currently charges adults and kids alike? (Other museums give kids a break; the Children’s Museum — because it’s all about the kids? —charges everybody equally. As museums go, it’s in the middle of pricing: The Aquarium and Planetarium are cheaper, Field and Science & Industry more expensive.) Presumably, though I don’t know the details, a move to the park would bring more money to the city than leaving the museum where it is. Not to mention the whopping break the museum would get by being on public land.

But the best reason to do the park deal lies in the museum design. It’s a bunker. The museum’s Web site includes a cutaway diagram of what the proposed three-story underground playground would look like, and frankly they’re missing an opportunity here. Instead of putting all of it underground, make the east side of it just like the diagram: a three-story-high glass wall, so people on the outside can look in. The park district could put terraced seating across from the wall and the thing could become an attraction like the Bean. And, like the Bean, it would have its own nickname: the Ant Farm. Call it a children’s museum if you want, but it’s the Ant Farm.

And a big one, too. At 100,000 square feet, it’s a little smaller than a Home Depot. Personally, I hate going to Home Depot, but I’d be tempted to sit outside one on a bench and watch people stroll around inside trying to find stuff. How much more fun to watch parents who just dropped $9 a head try to lead their kids away from the Legos and off to the next fun thing.

Feeling lucky

Of course, another approach might be to reconsider the whole idea of the children’s museum. Instead of charging admission and then letting kids do the kinds of things they can also do at the Museum of Science & Industry, how about making it free, and selling them tokens — a minimum of $9 worth, say? — good for various free-enterprise games.

Like the Number Wheel, where Mr. Digit will show how a certain number of tokens placed on a number and a color — say, red or black — can become a lot more tokens.

Or none at all. Valuable lesson in managing money. I mean tokens.

Then it’s off to the track, where Thomas the Tank Engine and his pals hold races, and kids can back their favorites with as many tokens as they like.

Hey, here’s Bob the Builder, too, disguised as a big Duplo slot machine. Put in a token, pull the arm that holds the hammer and see what happens. And nobody says you have to use the tokens, either; want to just hold them and spend them at Chuck E. Cheese’s later (forgot to mention the valuable corporate sponsorship opportunities here), you go right ahead. But this, too, is a chance to learn valuable lessons about capitalism. Like “faint heart never filled a flush.”

Plus, there’ll be free juice and free snacks (healthy ones, of course). Surround the thing by a moat (and if the leakage problems the nearby Harris Theater is having are any indication, it may be partway there already) and it’s a shoo-in for that lonely gaming license. The Kiddie Kasino. Right inside the Ant Farm.

Coming soon

Good news for those of us waiting to see “Diminished Capacity,” the film of Sherwood Kiraly’s novel of the same name. It’s supposed to be out in July.

Kiraly mentions the date in his current Coastline Pilot column, which Cubs fans ought to read. A former Chicagoan and Hinsdale-ean, Kiraly has lived in California for many years, but not nearly long enough to become a Padres fan.



17 Responses to “Feeling antsy”

  1. Greg says:

    Kudos for your brilliant insights! The public is clamoring for MORE!!!

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  3. hippie443 says:

    How does this tie to one of the previous stories? Maybe I’m slow… because I could’ve been on a differnet blog. lol Nevermind. At any rate, it was a solid post. Thanks

    Kelly Malthus
    Exfoliating sponge

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