Sciences Center to Open Soon
By early summer 2016, the doors of the Medicine Park Aquarium and Natural Sciences Center (MPANSC) will open to residents of Southwest Oklahoma as well as tourists across the state and country.
The executive director of the MPANSC is Doug Kemper, Jr., a graduate of Lawton High and Cameron University.
Kemper became the curator of the New York Aquarium when he was 23 years old and the founding director of the Seattle Aquarium when he was 28 years old. Kemper is also the founding director of the Aquarium in Moody Gardens at Galveston and of the Oklahoma Aquarium in Tulsa.
Having been in the profession over 40 years now, Kemper said the MPANSC has two major purposes: encourage economic development and provide an educational venue to the Southwest Oklahoma area.
“One of the two-prong areas is economic development,” he said, “– to enhance our region of the Wichita Mountains and Medicine Park and Lawton area as an end-point destination for tourism.
“At the same time, it’s a quality of life activity to create a science education facility for our school kids and to create a compelling family attraction.”
Kemper said currently, Southwest Oklahoma features very fine history museums, but it does not feature any zoos, aquariums or botanical gardens.
“If we look at our state,” he said, “the Tulsa area has the Oklahoma Aquarium, and it’s a world-class facility. The Tulsa Zoo is a first-rate institution, [and] Sam Noble Museum of Natural History at OU is a cutting-edge university museum.”
Kemper said the center’s primary footprint will be a 20-county area in Southwest Oklahoma, which is essentially the areas south of I-40 and west of I-35.
“In that approximately 20-county area, there are nearly 600,000 residents,” Kemper said. “Also in that area are 111 independent school districts, … 145,000 school kids, and there are five institutions of higher learning, Cameron being the premiere one.”
Kemper said he will encourage the forty-three Chambers of Commerce to sponsor their schools so that the students can visit the center.
The Medicine Park Aquarium and Natural Science Center will consist of the McMahon Foundation Freshwaters and Fishes of Oklahoma Galleries, the Butterfly Center, River Otter exhibit, Earth Sciences Center and Space Sciences Center.
“The aquarium building is a 9,000 square foot exhibit space featuring native fishes of Oklahoma,” Kemper said. “To give you a perspective of the square-footage, the aquarium building itself is a little bit longer than football field. It’s 320 feet long; a football field is 300, and then it’s 30 feet wide – relatively narrow. It’s built on a mountain side.”
Kemper said there are over 300 species of fish in Oklahoma, so the galleries will be educational for visitors.
The McMahon Foundation Freshwaters and Fishes of Oklahoma Galleries consists of Sunfishes Gallery; True Basses Gallery; Catfishes Gallery; Trout, Pikes & Perches Gallery; Bio-Diversity Gallery; Jurassic Fishes Gallery; and Marvels & Mysteries Gallery.
According to Kemper, sponsorships of the live exhibits are still available and can be accessed by visiting mpmns.org.
“We have lots of opportunities for individuals and families and businesses and corporations to get involved,” he said. “[I] encourage folks that might want to leave a legacy to look at our charter membership or a sponsorship.”
Though the center is not open to the public, people can view the building site from the road. The site is located south of Highway 49 on a slope that oversees Mount Scott and Lake Lawtonka.