Bonner Springs A sharp drop in its investment fund and in attendance is forcing the National Agriculture Center and Hall of Fame to look for some new ideas to raise money.
If the 100-acre student and tourist attraction cannot find a new business plan by June 1, some or all of the facility in western Wyandotte County might have to close, said Executive Director Tim Daugherty.
“We are in search of a new business model that can help us address financial shortfalls and at the same time tell the story of agriculture,” Daugherty said. “Our role is more important than it was 15 years ago.”
Despite the opening nearby of the Kansas Speedway, the Village West shopping and dining complex and a stadium used by the Kansas City T-Bones and Kansas City Wizards, attendance at the Hall of Fame has dropped significantly.
And an investment fund used for about half of the facility’s operating budget was reduced significantly last fall when the stock market fell, Daugherty said.
“We will have a significant shortfall,” Daugherty said. “Those funds have been decimated.”
He said officials at the hall would like to hear any ideas the public might have to help finance the facility, which was created by Congress in 1960 to showcase agriculture and the country’s agriculture history and leaders.
The hall receives no government support. It raises much of its money from donations, contributions, rentals on facilities and admissions. The investment fund provided about half of the operating budget of $500,000. The ag center charges up to $7 for adults, $5 for students and military personnel and $3 for children 5 to 16.
Attendance, which once averaged 20,000 a year, has dropped to about 10,000. Daugherty said the hall’s attendance was particularly hurt when the Future Farmers of America convention left Kansas City in the 1990s.
The hall is promoting more interactive exhibits such as one about endangered honey bees and is emphasizing education in its exhibits and programs, Daugherty said.