LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - It's the largest private donation since fundraising for the proposed National Hurricane Museum and Science Center in Lake Charles began four years ago -- and it puts the project $1 million closer to becoming reality.
The Stream family has pledged $1 million toward the building and operations of the museum. The pledge, the largest private donation to the center since fundraising began, leaves the project about $15 million short of its overall goal. To date, approximately $40 million in funding has been raised for the project.
Since 2009, Gray Stream has served as the museum's board chairman and he has spearheaded efforts to raise the $55 million needed to build the facility on the lakefront. He made the announcement of his family's pledge Tuesday.
"We had about a $70 million estimate on it, but we've tried to create a scope of work that can be accomplished for $55 million and can be phased on to from there," Stream said.
Stream said his family's donation keeps the project on track -- a project he said, once complete, will ultimately save lives.
"There are thousands of lives that we've lost in this great country to natural disasters, (such as) hurricanes that were totally unnecessary -- if people were better prepared, better informed, more hardened, had a better understanding and frankly, better predictive technology," he said.
The science center portion of the museum will help provide all of these.
"The science center component is still really focused on these extreme weather events and uses it as a platform to teach predictive mathematics, atmospheric sciences and earth sciences," he said.
And with this seven figure pledge, Stream said he hopes others will be inspired to continue being part of the drive to make the center a reality.
"The family sees this contribution as a call to action for others, you know, there's still a gap here. $40 million is an amazing achievement, but there's still about a $15 million gap to get there. We're really proud to be a part of it and make this commitment, and we want to encourage others whether they be corporate, individuals, or foundations to do the same. We can close this gap and get there," he said.
Stream said museum officials hope to break ground on the facility next June, with an estimated opening date of Spring 2018.
The proposed 68,000-square-foot facility will be located on the Lake Charles lakefront on land pledged by the City of Lake Charles.
While the center will be open to daily visitors, students, teachers, researchers and other professionals, the facility will also offer teaching materials in advance of the building's completion. Its National Education Initiative will provide comprehensive online materials covering science, technology, engineering, math and social sciences.
"This is about branding the region and creating a center that we think is ultimately going to save lives and create a tremendous amount of positive impact," Stream said.