May 16, 2024

Discovery Place Groundbreaking Celebration Event Kicks Off Construction on New Nature Museum in Freedom Park

Photos by Jeff Cravotta Courtesy of Discovery Place 

Photo 1 (pictured left to right): Heather Norton, Discovery Place Chief Science Officer and Catherine Wilson Horne, Discovery Place President & CEO 

Photo 2 (pictured left to right): Representative Mary Belk (NC), Commissioner Laura Meier (Mecklenburg County), Catherine Wilson Horne, Discovery Place President & CEO, Rich Campbell, Discovery Place Board of Trustee Member, Aditya Bhasin, Chair, Discovery Place Board of Trustees, Dena Diorio, Mecklenburg County Manager

Media Contact: Sarah Wheat |

CHARLOTTE, NC (May 14, 2024) – Discovery Place, a landmark educational and cultural institution in Charlotte since 1946, celebrated a groundbreaking event this morning with a ceremonial tree planting for what will be a new nature haven and world-class environmental education center serving the Carolinas.

Participants in the groundbreaking celebration included officials from the state of North Carolina, Mecklenburg County and the City of Charlotte along with Discovery Place Board of Trustee Members and supporters of the new nature museum. Remarks were given by Catherine Wilson Horne, Discovery Place President & CEO, Dena Diorio, Mecklenburg County Manager, George Dunlap, Chair of the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners, Aditya Bhasin, Chair of Discovery Place Board of Trustees and Board Member Rich Campbell.

“The original building that housed Charlotte’s nature museum opened more than 70 years ago,” said Catherine Wilson Horne, Discovery Place President & CEO. “Our city has grown exponentially in a way that most cities can only dream about since that time, and we are thrilled to have finally broken ground on what will be a true cultural amenity and destination for Charlotte residents and visitors alike.”

“We are proud to support the new nature museum, which will be an important contributor to Mecklenburg County’s continuous efforts to expand the quality and availability of its public learning spaces,” said Dena R. Diorio, Mecklenburg County Manager. “The elevated experiences and new programming at the museum will grow with our residents and educate our community for generations to come.”

The vision of the new nature museum is to create an engaging environmental education center that will provide guests of all ages and experiences the opportunity to explore the outdoors and learn sustainability practices that improve the health of our city, region and planet. Features of the new nature museum include a North American River Otter habitat, naturalist lab, expansive animal collection representing species native to the Piedmont and a tree canopy walk. The design also places a priority on becoming more accessible and integrated with Freedom Park through public gardens and community spaces that are available to all park visitors.

Accessibility has been a cornerstone of Discovery Place’s strategy since the organization introduced the Welcome Program in 2015. In an effort to provide greater access to Discovery Place Museums, Welcome offers $3 museum admission, per person, to any North or South Carolina family receiving WIC or EBT benefits. Since its inception, close to 450,000 guests have used the program, and Discovery Place anticipates 13% of the new nature museum’s first year attendance will be through the Welcome program.

Construction is scheduled to get underway in the coming weeks with an anticipated construction completion in Fall 2025. The museum opening announcement will be released at a later date. For more information about the new nature museum and to learn about donation opportunities, visit

Photos from the groundbreaking ceremony with photo credits along with a rendering of the new nature museum are available for media here.

About Discovery Place
One of the leading hands-on science museums in the nation, Discovery Place brings science, nature and design together to create transformative experiences that enable the community to understand, enjoy and apply science to their lives. Discovery Place is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and the leading hub for science education and exploration in the Carolinas through four distinct museum experiences—Discovery Place Science, Discovery Place Nature, Discovery Place Kids-Huntersville and Discovery Place Kids-Rockingham. Discovery Place serves more than 750,000 people a year—through Museum visits, interactive educational programming and community outreach initiatives—shaping a future where people embrace science to create opportunities, build hope, solve problems and bring positive change for our world. In 2017, Discovery Place was named as a finalist for the National Medal by the Institute for Museum and Library Science.