The Woodlands Children’s Museum has outgrown its space in the Panther Creek Shopping Center and is looking at options for expansion before its lease is up at the end of 2021, museum directors said.

Executive Director Angela Colton said the current 11,164-square-foot shopping center space is not sufficient to keep up with the growth in interest for its programs, which include permanent art, culture and science exhibits as well as spaces for birthday parties and special events.

The museum opened in 2001 and moved to Panther Creek in 2010, she said. The museum received 81,000 visitors that year—more than the predicted amount of about 50,000, she said. As of the end of 2019, the museum was receiving 125,000 visitors a year.

“We want to make the community aware of the fact that in two years we’re going to need to renegotiate [and decide whether to] stay where we are and operate with the challenges we have, or ... get the community involved to help us move forward with property or another building,” Colton said.

The first step is a 90-day needs assessment to determine what challenges the museum will face as well as its current and desire conditions. The assessment will help the museum determine the cost of reaching those goals, she said. The museum directors said they hope to obtain community feedback on what the museum should focus on for the future, and they will seek input through an online survey in March.

“Once we work through this needs assessment and determine what square footage we’ll need, [we will seek] individual and corporate donations, memberships, birthday parties, admissions, fundraisers,” Development Director Jen Kraus said.

Colton said about 60% of children’s museums are given property or a building government that is leased back from the owner at no cost or at a nominal fee. She presented the museum’s potential needs to The Woodlands Township at its Jan. 22 meeting.Kraus said the museum staff has grown by 85% since its original opening, adding to the facility’s day-to-day needs alongside storage and classroom space needs.

The directors said museum staff do not want to pass new costs on to their guests. Admissions started at $5 and are now $7, Colton said.

“There’s ... no bad guy in this; this is just awareness that we’re growing,” she said. “We’re just trying to put those questions out there that the community can reflect upon.”