Children’s Hospital plans $10 million enrichment center with aquarium, recording studio and parade porch | Healthcare/Hospitals

On the heels of a $300 million expansion, Children’s Hospital New Orleans continues to expand its downtown campus with plans for another multi-million dollar addition in the form of an enrichment center for children of 12,000 square feet.

The idea is to make hospital stays and visits enjoyable for children and provide a retreat for families, said President and CEO John Nickens.

“We started thinking: How do we make Children’s Hospital this healthcare environment where kids come home from school and say, ‘Hey, mom, I’m going to play Children’s Hospital,'” he said. he declares.

A rendering of the center shows a recording studio where children can create radio shows.

With features like an aquarium, arts and crafts space, outdoor space for Audubon animal encounters, and display space for Mardi Gras floats, plans for the 10 million center dollars seems to be a cross between a children’s museum and a summer camp.

A parade porch will lead onto Henry Clay Avenue, where the Krewe of Thoth have traditionally rode to throw beads and trinkets to patients. And a studio with a working radio station will allow children to record jokes or send in song requests, which can then be broadcast throughout the hospital.

The center is called Walker’s Imaginarium in honor of Walker Beery, a 9-year-old brain cancer patient in New Orleans who died last year. Beery started a local foundation to raise money for childhood cancer before his death. The non-profit organization, called Kids Join the Fight, has raised $1 million to date.

Walker's Imaginarium

Children’s Hospital plans to open Walker’s Imaginarium in 2023.

The hospital, which is part of LCMC Health, also plans to have visiting hours at the enrichment center for children who are not patients. Officials hope to reunite sick and healthy children in a way that normalizes their lives and encourages play therapy.

A committee has already raised $4 million for the center, which is designed by Eskew Dumez Ripple. A quarter of that came from shipyard magnate Boysie Bollinger and his wife Joy.

Children’s intends to begin construction in 2023 and complete construction within 18 months.