Simplified: In just over two years, the Washington Pavilion went from canceling an entire season of shows to exceeding pre-pandemic attendance and ticket sales. Now, it's got the largest donation in its history and some big plans for the future.

Tell me more

President and CEO Darrin Smith on Tuesday announced a $1.2 million donation – the largest donation from an individual in the pavilion's 20+ year history – from the estate of Sioux Falls resident Patricia Knutson.

  • The money will be put toward improving the Kirby Science Discovery Center.
  • Smith told Sioux Falls Simplified the first project the donation will help fund is a remodel of the water playroom for young children.
  • Future projects are yet to be determined, and, aside from needing to be spent on the science center, funds are unrestricted.

Why it matters

  • The donation comes after the Pavilion saw the highest level of community support in history, Smith said. He said typically fundraising accounts for about $1.5 million of the Pavilion's $11.5 million operating budget.
  • And the influx in support comes alongside a year of record-breaking attendance in the Kirby Science Center as well as record subscription sales for the Broadway performance series.
  • Looking to the future, Smith said he wants to see the Pavilion put more emphasis on its capabilities as a management company to help more nonprofits in town.
"That's truly our growth opportunity," Smith said, adding that the company has applied for a trade name under which to expand management services.

What are some specific changes coming?

Here's a breakdown.

New name, vibe for Leonardo's Cafe

One of the most visible will be changes to Leonardo's Cafe – which Smith said is the only aspect of the Pavilion's business that isn't back up to pre-pandemic levels of success.

  • The new name hasn't yet been decided.
  • Through working with a consultant, the Pavilion is looking to focus on creating a coffeeshop vibe with a limited selection of fresh sandwiches, soups, salads, pastries and coffee.
  • The remodeled cafe will also have a special section for families, so kids can be kids without parents needing to worry about disturbing more business-focused clientele.

Another goal of the remodeled is to rework traffic through the Pavilion to encourage visitors to walk past the cafe, as well as the limited retail items that'll be available for purchase. It's not a full gift shop, Smith said, but it'll have some science-related items and other Pavilion merch.

Art consulting services

The Pavilion is also rolling out a new art consulting service, Smith said.

  • Pavilion staff will be able to help businesses source art for their offices, with a special emphasis on promoting local and regional artists.
  • Services are available now, and will be marketed more in the coming weeks.

Updated water playroom

The water playroom is the only part of the science center that hasn't seen upgrades in the last six years, Smith said.

  • That's changing with the help of Knutson's donation, he added. Specific details and renderings are expected to be released at a later date.

What happens next?

Cafe renovations will roll out gradually and are expected to be completed by the end of the year, Smith said.

The water playroom will be updated with plans to reopen in early 2023.

And more announcements on how the $1.2 million donation will be spent are coming, too.

"We can't wait for our members and the community to see the exciting things we have in store for these dollars over the coming year," Chief Operating Officer Kerri DeGraff said.