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Union Station ends its fourth year in a row with a seven-digit cash surplus

  • The Kansas City Star
  • Published Tuesday, March 4, 2014, at 6:27 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014, at 6:56 p.m.

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Union Station ended a fourth year in a row with a seven-digit cash surplus in 2013.

The continued turnaround after a decade of deficits comes as station officials are making plans to mark the centennial of the depot’s construction later this year.

Year-end numbers approved Tuesday by the station’s board of directors showed a $1.8 million surplus before depreciation. That was attributed in part to the “Real Pirates” exhibit, the success of first-run movies on the digital 3-D Extreme Screen and a 17 percent jump in revenue from Science City.

Attendance at Science City was up 7 percent last year, and the science center accounted for 40 percent of tickets sold at Union Station. Planetarium attendance and revenue also were up almost 25 percent from the previous year.

Officials hope to open two new exhibits at Science City by the end of this year based on winning school entries in the second round of Battle of the Brains.

“Science City is our core, our mission,” said Jerry Baber, the station’s financial officer.

The Extreme Screen had more than 36,000 people in attendance and took in more than $300,000 in revenue with screenings of “Oz the Great and Powerful” and other films.

The station continues to grapple with capital costs, however, including more than $600,000 this year to replace the long escalators to the main floor. They have to be custom built and then reassembled inside the building.

The station is looking for sponsors to raise nearly $1.5 million for centennial observances. A gala dinner Oct. 30 will be followed by a two-day public open house with free entertainment the weekend of Nov. 1-2.

Tentative plans for a kickoff weekend Sept. 5-7 call for a choreographed program of historical images projected onto the station’s facade, accompanied by fireworks.

Station officials also are working with a design firm to develop a permanent exhibit of the depot’s history to include historical objects, interpretive displays and a smartphone app to trigger content at various points throughout the station. They hope to have that completed in time for the centennial.

To reach Matt Campbell, call 816-234-4902 or send email to mcampbell@kcstar.com.

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