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Wonderground gives madison children’s museum visitors one more reason to stay and play

By: Mark Hembree//May 11, 2022//

Wonderground gives madison children’s museum visitors one more reason to stay and play

By: Mark Hembree//May 11, 2022//

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What can a museum do with an unusable, two-floor parking ramp? Combining imagination and charitable donations, the Madison Children’s Museum buitl Wonderground, adding 13,600 square feet of new play space for kids. Demolition for the project began in April 2021. Only a few months later “Wonderground” was opened to the public on Oct. 2.

The compressed timeline wasn’t the only reason the project was a tight fit. The museum stands in the midst of downtown Madison and is bound by busy streets and sidewalks. Project manager Pierre Rideau said those circumstances affected almost every aspect of the project. “It’s something we had to take into account when we scheduled the work. We do what we call ‘just in time delivery’ to make sure we don’t send too much material to the site at once.”

Of the project’s myriad details, one in particular posed a problem: the need to temporarily move a 19th century log cabin standing on the top slab of the parking ramp.

“The cabin had to be picked up, moved, and was stored on East Washington for a couple of months,” Rideau said. “That was pretty tricky. They had to take light poles down just to get the trailer backed in to put the cabin in place.”

There’s plenty for kids to do in the new space. Among the outdoor area features there’s a 23-foot-tall climbing structure made of branches, a log cabin from the 1830s, a giant bucket turned on its side and a vegetable garden. Wonderground’s exhibits will change with the seasons and weather.

Money for the project came from Dane County Arts, and additional donations from Endres Manufacturing Co. Foundation, the Evjue Foundation (a charitable arm of The Capital Times), the W. Jerome Frautschi Foundation, and the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation.

Admission is free.

“I’ve taken my kids there quite a few times and they absolutely love it,” Rideau said. “It’s been really fun to be part of such a rewarding project, and a project that brings so much to the community.”


Location: Madison

Cost: $1,428,558

Start: March 2021

Completion: October 2021

Owner/Developer: Madison Children’s Museum Foundation

Architect: Gary Brink & Associates

Engineer: Pierce Engineers

General Contractor: J.H. Findorff & Son

Submitting Company: J.H. Findorff & Son

Subcontractors: 7 Hills Striping, Best Specialties, Block Iron & Supply, Century Fence, CGC, Cobra Concrete Cutting Services, Common Links Construction, County Materials, Endres Manufacturing, Environmental Management Consulting, Federal Rent-A-Fence, General Heating & Air Conditioning dba Hooper, Gordy’s Concrete Pumping Service, Hillcraft of Wisconsin, Hooper, Jobsite Stud Welding, L&W Supply, Lake City Glass, Marling Lumber, Midwest Construction Materials, New Berlin Grading, Robert J Nickles Inc. dba Nickles Electric, Wingra Red-Mix, Zander Solutions

Photo Credit: Florence Edwards-Miller, Communication Coordinator at Madison Children’s Museum


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