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May 16, 2018

Portland Science Center ends its run on Portland's waterfront

Photo / Mainebiz archives A gymnast flips across a balance beam in the "Body Worlds" exhibit at the Portland Science Center, which opened in September 2015 on Maine Wharf. The science center closed its doors after ending its "Planet Shark" exhibit on Sunday.

The Portland Science Center is closing after less than three years in business in the Old Port waterfront district.

The science center, which opened in September 2015 with an exhibit that had been shown worldwide called “Body Worlds,”  closed after its most recent exhibit, “Planet Shark,” ended on Sunday. Other shows had focused on “Real Pirates” and the Titanic.

The Portland Press Herald reported that the owner of the center, Salem, Mass.-based The Gold Group, closed the business and will opt out of its lease at 68 Commercial St.

Stephen Goodrich, owner of the building, told the Press Herald that Gold Group told him attendance had declined recently compared to its earlier exhibits. Goodrich said he would honor the opt-out clause of the lease contract allowing early termination if the business wasn’t successful.

Expenses exceeded revenue, Joseph Gold, president of The Gold Group, told Mainebiz.

"It was the cost of everything," Gold said. "The public didn't support it. People would complain about the price, but we offered world-class exhibits that were not coming to Maine otherwise. We kept [admission] under $20."

As Gold said, reviews on the science center’s Facebook page suggest that the lagging attendance might have been due to ticket prices seen as overpriced and exhibits that did not meet customers’ expectations.

“100% disappointing!” wrote one reviewer. “They have 1 exhibit, spent close to $100.00 for admission (2 adults, 16 year old and 14 year old) and parking for less than an hour. Could have gone to Boston for the entire day for a little more. Save your $$$.”

Tickets for the recent “Planet Shark” exhibit were listed at $18.50 for patrons 13 and older and $14.50 for children 3 to 12 years old; children under 3 were admitted free.

Gold cited the cost of bringing in exhibits produced by third-party entities such as National Geographic, which produced the "Real Pirates" show, or Dr. Gunther von Hagens' "Body Worlds" exhibit, which continues to be shown in museums around the world.

"The exhibits are costly [to produce]. They're costly to lease. There's the cost of installation. There's the cost of extra staffing. It was too expensive to run," Gold said.

He added: "I take exception to the comments on Facebook and Yelp. Portland, Maine, is expensive. It's not cheap to dine out. A movie is $11.50 to $12.50. Those are Boston prices. We were not charging Boston prices."

"It's interesting, we've gotten more press coverage about the closing than we did when we were open," he said.

The Gold Group, which bills itself on its website as “an industry leader and innovator in the marketing, promotion, and production of experiences and ticketed events,” also partners on venues in Providence, R.I., and San Antonio, Texas.

Read more

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Portland Science Center to open Friday with 'Body Worlds' exhibit

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