City Museum, the quirky downtown attraction that defies definition, has a new owner.
Oklahoma City-based Premier Parks LLC, which operates entertainment venues across the country and in Canada, including Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier, announced Thursday it now owns and manages City Museum.
Museum director Rick Erwin said employees got the news Thursday morning and that the search for an owner had been going on for more than a year. City Museum had been owned since 2002 by American Milling, a grain-processing business based in Cahokia. David Jump is its president.
“It’s exciting news. Dave has been looking for someone who will take care of the business and grow it,” Erwin said. “He’s a grain guy. He doesn’t know marketing. He knows family fun and attractions — he’s a grandfather. But if the idea is to continue growing and keep growing, we need to make some changes.”
Erwin said changes will be mostly behind the scenes, and Premier Parks will be able to implement new scheduling and ticketing systems — possibly even online ticketing.
“We’re not technology people,” Erwin said. “We can barely work our cellphones. But we can build a hell of a slide.”
Everyone will keep their jobs — this time of year, the museum employs about 100 — but they will be paid by Premier Parks and will get new insurance packages.
Premier has a 40-year operating lease on the site and is led by Kieran Burke, a former chairman and CEO of the Six Flags Entertainment Corp.
Burke said he first visited City Museum about two years ago and has visited about 10 times since. He was impressed while watching families from all generations and backgrounds play and interact. He even climbed the climbers and slid down the slides himself.
“I used to run Six Flags,” he said. “I always had a thing — you don’t buy a roller coaster without trying it.”
He said he plans to honor the initial vision and experience of the museum and will not add theme park signage or “jazz it up” in a sanitized way. The museum does almost no marketing, so Premier will likely market the museum outside the area “to increase the awareness of how special this is. That’s not just good for the area, but very good for downtown.”
Without getting ahead of himself, he said he could see building another City Museum in another city, but not duplicating it, and that it could be well-received in Nashville, Tenn., or New York.
City Museum was founded in 1997 by artists Bob and Gail Cassilly in the Washington Avenue Loft District in St. Louis. It displays the work of Bob Cassilly as well as other artists among a series of slides, climbers, fish tanks, castles, animal sculptures and a giant pair of underpants. Bob Cassilly died in a bulldozer accident in 2011 while working at another playground project, Cementland, bordering St. Louis and Riverview.
Jump said in a statement: “I am grateful for the creative, hard work of the staff before and after Bob’s death. That group and the new operators will carry forward the magic that is City Museum.”
Erwin said that this means City Museum has better access to water park technology. Bob Cassilly originally wanted to put a water park on the roof, Erwin said, but didn’t think the building could sustain the weight.
“But now we have some resources to some very cool stuff,” he said. “I’m willing to reach out to some of the water parks.”
Erwin said the museum will maintain control of its social media accounts and will have a say in any other marketing ideas Premier brings to the table. “If I see a dancing bear out there with a logo, I’d throw it off the roof,” he said.
Erwin said Premier Parks has made it clear that it doesn’t want to change the voice and image of City Museum and that it might even add City Museum elements to its other attractions. That might mean hiring more artists at City Museum and sending them out to other Premier parks, Erwin said.
“You should still see City Museum as City Museum,” Erwin said. “Their statement to us is, it’s not broke. We don’t want to fix it. We don’t want to change it.”
Premier Parks owns Clementon Park and Splash World in Clementon, N.J.; Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park in Denver; Magic Springs Theme and Water Park in Hot Springs, Ark.; Nashville Shores Resort in Nashville, Tenn.; Ocean Breeze Water Park in Virginia Beach, Va.; Pacific Park in Santa Monica, Calif.; Rapids in West Palm Beach, Fla.; Wet ’n’ Wild Hawaii in Oahu, Hawaii; Wet ’n’ Wild Toronto; and Wild Waves Theme and Water Park in Seattle.
That website wouldn't let me continue because of my ad-blocker, but you can easily Google and find other news sites that confirm this.
ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) – The City Museum has been sold to an Oklahoma-based theme park company.
Premier Parks, LLC announced Thursday they would assume operation and management of the St. Louis attraction.
“We are incredibly excited to add the creativity and uniqueness of City Museum to our portfolio of entertainment facilities. We love the vision of founders Bob and Gail Cassilly. The ability to operate a must-see attraction in the vibrant downtown of St. Louis is a welcome opportunity. We plan to keep the same staff and vision for the museum while infusing some of our resources so that City Museum will continue to grow and expand. ” Premier Parks leader Kieran Burke said.
The City Museum was opened in 1997 by the Cassillys. In 2017, more than 800,000 people reportedly visited the downtown location.
“I am grateful for the creative, hard work of the staff before and after Bob’s death. That group and the new operators will carry forward the magic that is City Museum,” said Dave Jump, the CEO of City Museum.
Premier Parks, LLC currently has 10 theme and water parks throughout North America, including Wet ‘n’ Wild Hawaii, Ocean Breeze Water Park in Virginia Beach and Magic Springs Theme and Water Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
link Not sure how I feel about this. I haven't been to enough current Premier Parks to know how well they run their properties, but I worry that corporatization of the City Museum will take away some of the charm.
“If toast always lands butter-side down, and cats always land on their feet, what happens if you strap toast on the back of a cat and drop it?”
I'm so thankful I made it there last year because I too have a bad feeling about this.
I remember thinking it was very affordable considering it's location in downtown St. Louis. Just a hunch, but I am guessing it may not cost $14 anymore. But the bigger thing is if and when Premier's legal team gets invovled.
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