HAYS, KS -- During a farewell ceremony this morning, representatives from Fort Hays State University, the Sternberg Museum of Natural History and the local community said goodbye to an elderly lady they have come to know very well.
"This is like saying goodbye to an old friend," Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president, commented in the museum's exhibition hall just before workers began to dismantle the "A T. rex Named Sue" exhibit.
The exhibit, which features a life-size cast of the largest, most complete and best-preserved Tyrannosaurus rex ever found and several interactive displays, opened to the public in Hays on Feb. 25 and continued through Sunday. The 67-million-year-old fossil, which was named "Sue" for Sue Hendrickson, the woman who found her, was purchased for almost $9 million at auction in 1997 by a consortium that includes the Field Museum in Chicago, the Walt Disney Company and McDonald's Corporation. President Hammond left it to Dr. Jerry Choate, director of the Sternberg Museum, to announce the final total of visitors, but he did offer an estimate of Sue's impact on the local economy.
"We have not had a chance to make a scientifically accurate estimate of the economic impact because the exhibit just closed about 12 hours ago," the president said. "However, we conservatively estimate the direct economic impact of Sue on the Hays area at 6.3 million dollars! The total economic impact after multiplier effects are applied was $11,340,000! This was a great project in terms of its educational value, but we shouldn't overlook the tremendous lift that it gave to our local and area businesses." [See note below for an explanation of how the economic impact was calculated.]
Sternberg Museum Director Choate announced the official count for museum attendance during Sue's visit. Before the exhibit opened, Choate had suggested 40,000 visitors as the "break-even" point, and some of the more optimistic members of the Sue Committee had hoped for 50,000. After the exhibit had closed for the last time at the Sternberg Museum on Sunday night, Choate announced that the official final total was 105,713. He said the visitors had come from 103 of the 105 counties in Kansas and from 42 of the 50 states.
"The more than 100,000 visitors who came to see Sue have gone home with a better appreciation for the world-class museum that we have here in Hays and undoubtedly will be back to see future exhibitions," Choate said.
As a practical matter, the thousands and thousands of calls for reservations have provided a database so that the museum staff can notify those people about upcoming exhibits. "Sue has been good not only for the community but also for the Sternberg Museum," Choate said. "It opened people's eyes to the fact that the museum is a treasure to be enjoyed while traveling down Interstate 70 to other destinations or on a weekend excursion to Hays."
Choate handed out computer-generated maps, produced by the university's Geographic Information Systems program, that plotted the hometowns of the Sue visitors. He also described the overwhelming task the museum staff faced in handling the many thousands of telephone calls to order tickets.
The inspiration to bring Sue to Hays originated with Gail Kuehl, co-owner with her husband, Rick, of the McDonald's Restaurants in Hays, Russell and WaKeeney. She also chaired the committee that coordinated the Sue visit.
Hammond and Choate thanked Gail Kuehl for the many hours of work and the financial commitments she made to make such a monumental community event a reality, and Choate presented her with two gifts -- a mounted cast of a T. rex claw and a mounted cast of a T. rex tooth.
Choate also gave a preview of coming events at the Sternberg Museum, including "Monarca: Butterfly Beyond Boundaries," which goes on display May 25. This exhibit, produced by the Canadian Museum of Nature, details the life cycle and the epic, and endangered, 2,500-mile migration of the monarch butterfly. The exhibit will be at the museum through Sept. 6.
Note of explanation: The direct impact of $6.3 million was a conservative estimate based on 100,000 visitors, which was less than the actual total. Of those 100,000 visitors, museum staff estimated that 40,000 stayed overnight in 20,000 motel rooms, at an average cost of $65 a night. That would compute to $1.3 million. Based on a standard used by convention and visitors bureaus, those 40,000 overnight visitors would have spent an additional $2 million on tickets, food, gas, etc. Of the 60,000 day-visitors, the museum staff estimated that about half, such as children in school groups, would have spent an average of $25 on tickets, soda, food, souvenirs, etc., adding up to $750,000. The other 30,000 day-visitors would have spent $75 on tickets, food, gas, etc., adding up to another $2.25 million.
The multiplier effects include both the indirect impact and the induced impact. The indirect impact results because business establishments in the affected area purchase additional goods and services from other area sources in order to support the direct impact. The indirect impact is calculated as 20 cents for each dollar of direct impact, equaling $1,260,000. The induced impact arises from income received by area businesses that is in turn distributed to area residents in the form of wages, fees, profits, etc., which in turn sets off additional rounds of expenditures. It is estimated that for every dollar of direct impact, an additional 60 cents of area business is ultimately generated, which equals an additional $3,780,000.