Agenda Index City of Vancouver



Standing Committee on City Services & Budgets


Directors, Office of Cultural Affairs and Finance


A.S.T.C. Science World
- Annual Review and 2000 Operating Grant Request





Council has approved annual grants to A.S.T.C. Science World to support their ongoing operations since 1982 through either the “Other Grants” or “Cultural Grants” budgets. In 1997 Council directed that this grant be considered in the context of the “Other Grants” category.

Approval of grants requires eight affirmative votes of Council.


This report provides a review of Science World’s 1999 activities, and presents for Council's consideration their 2000 operating grant request.


The A.S.T.C. Science World has received civic support since its inception in 1982. In 1989 the Society moved into the renovated EXPO Centre which is leased to the City by the Province, and subleased to the Society.

Science World provides hands-on, educational and entertaining programming, exhibitions and film founded in arts, science and technology. It also provides curriculum-based education programs, training programs for science teachers and a career-mentoring program for young scientists.

1999 Year In Review

During 1999 Science World developed the exhibition UFOs: The Why? Files and played host to Arithmetricks: Perfectly Perplexing Puzzles and Sport. One Ocean and Quest for Flight were featured in the 3D Laser Theatre. The Omnimax Theatre screened the films The Greatest Places, Wolves, Olympic Glory, Everest, The Living Sea, Super Speedway, Cosmic Voyage and Mysteries of Egypt. In conjunction with the Indy, Science World staged a festival of racing and automotive technology.

Science World continued with it science education programs and outreach activities in 1999. Scientists and Innovators in the Schools sent 481 volunteer scientists, engineers, technologists and technicians to visit 2945 classes, reaching 81,000 students throughout the province. The Engaging Science program, a joint venture of Science World, the Pacific Space Centre and the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre, presented professional development workshops to 2,105 teachers around BC.

2000 Plans

Exhibit highlights in 2000 include Grossology: The (Impolite) Science of the Human Body which opened in February. Attendance for the month of February was almost double January. Science World are exploring the option of bringing this temporary exhibit back in the fall of 2000 to meet the audience demand. The second major exhibit will be Robotics, opening May 27th. This is in addition to a full range of programs and activities in the permanent galleries, exhibits, and theatres.

Science World has invested a significant amount of time and energy in long range planning. The resultant plan, Science World: The ReGeneration calls for a refocusing and revitalization of the whole institution and its infrastructure in a series of initiatives and projects to be undertaken in sequence over the coming ten years. The 1999/2000 Annual Report will be circulated to Council. It includes the ReGeneration vision statement.


Staff are recommending a 2000 operating grant of $80,400, based on the 1999 approved funding level. The 2000 grant has been increased by 1% over the 1999 grant to cover inflation based on Council policy. It has also been reduced by .5% consistent with the City's budget reduction program.

OCA staff have reviewed the budgets and assumptions and support the financial projections as reasonable in relation to recent experience at Science World, as well as other local exhibiting institutions. The audited financial statements for the year ending February 29, 2000 are attached to this report as Appendix "A".

Science World had an excess of expenditures over revenues of ($295,000) on a total operating budget of $7.8 million. In addition, Science World wrote-off several one-time costs amounting to $373,000, bringing the total loss on the year to ($668,000). The primary cause of the loss, beyond the one-time costs, was in lower than budgeted admissions income. Total attendance in 1999/2000 was 454,517 as compared to 391,355 (for the 9-month period ending Feb. 28, 1999). Factoring in a change in their 1999 year end reporting, this represents a slight decrease in attendance over 1999, is significantly less than projected, and is well below 1997/1998 attendance of 544,674. Year-to-date attendance is ahead of projections largely driven by the Grossology exhibit.

Science World has completed an internal restructuring to reduce fixed overhead in order to be better able to respond to income variations which invariably arise in an institution with such a high percentage of revenues from admissions and ancillary revenues. Securing more stable funding sources continues to be a challenge. The City’s grant is less than 1% of the total budget and remains the only unrestricted government funds available to Science World. They do receive project funds from the Province for specific science education projects. They receive no other grant funds for the day to day operations of the society or for the ongoing permanent exhibitions. Science World representatives maintain that the City’s support is important in actual dollars terms, but also as leverage to other private sector funders.

In 1998 a $2.1 million endowment fund held by the Science World Foundation was wound up and the funds were distributed to the A.S.T.C. Science World Society. The funds are restricted and can only be used for building improvements and exhibit renewal. To date$904,000 has been spent on building improvements (carpet replacement, painting, chillers etc.), exhibit renewal and fund raising feasibility studies. While staff concur that these expenditures were necessary, we generally do not support the erosion of endowment capital. Staff are encouraged that Science World has implemented an exhibition replacement reserve fund and would encourage the board and staff to include a working capital reserve or endowment fund in their ReGeneration strategy.


The source of funds for the operating grant is the “Other” Grants allocation in the 2000 Budget. Science World has requested that, subject to Council’s approval, their grant be made in equal monthly installments to assist in their financial planning.


Staff recommend continued operating support for A.S.T.C. Science World Society in the amount of $80,400.



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