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Monday, February 27, 2012 - 3:00am

Savannah To Open Children's Museum

Savannah officials are trying to diversify their tourism base.

The visitor-dependent city is planning to open a children's museum in June.

Savannah's tourist offerings tend to attract older visitors and couples without children.

That leaves out a wide section of the public.

So, a long-term goal is to offer more kid-friendly choices.

Savannah Children's Museum spokeswoman Patricia Guerrero Knight says, there's also a potential market in 86,000 area residents under ten years old.

"Children's museums in urban areas show a sense of valuing families with young children," Knight says. "They bring in a different sector of the tourism market. We believe the Savannah Children's Museum's Exploration Station actually will begin to attract even more tourists."

The non-profit Coastal Heritage Society is backing the museum with support from private boosters, city taxpayers and the Newman's Own Foundation.

The philanthropy gave the effort $200,000 for its first phase.

It'll include a one-acre outdoor exhibit for learning and play.

Museum officials have plans for indoor exhibits once more funding comes in.

Exploration Station will be located near the Georgia State Railroad Museum and Savannah Visitor's Center.

A previous Savannah Children's Museum was located on Paulsen Street near what's now called Memorial Health University Medical Center.

It included a planetarium, exhibits on herpetology and health, lecture programs and other offerings, but closed in the 1980's.

Savannah gastroenterologist Dr. Nicholas Costrini welcomed the news of a new children's museum.

"Anything they can do to stimulate young minds is fantastic," Dr. Costrini says. "A children's museum allows a community to take a leadership role in supporting education."

Costrini served as president of the organization that ran the previous museum, the Savannah Science Museum.