SUDBURY -- The Ontario government is providing $7 million to Science North in Sudbury to help ensure it can continue to safely operate during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This funding supports ongoing operations and administration, helping Science North to develop new exhibits and online content, perform maintenance and repairs, and deliver learning supports for students and teachers," the province said in a news release Monday.

Since reopening July 18, Science North has implemented stringent health protocols to ensure a safe experience for everyone, including increased cleaning and sanitizing, mandatory face-coverings, timed-entry tickets and physical distancing with contact tracing.

Visitors are encouraged to review current COVID-19 updates before visiting and are asked to respect health and safety guidelines to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

'It's safe to come here now'

Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries, was joined by Guy Labine, CEO of Science North and Dr. Stephen Kosar, chair of the Science North Board, to make the announcement Monday afternoon during her northern Ontario tour.

"Science North is not only one of our great tourist attractions, it is a valued cultural institution - one that welcomes people of all ages to the wonderful world of science," said MacLeod. "I think today is obviously a financial boost, but it's also a moral boost to say it's safe to come here now."

"It's core operating support, it allows us to continue to be able to open on weekends and on Thursdays and to be able to plan for what that future will look like," said Labine. "And basically allows us to take that money and leverage it with other sources of funding to remain viable as an organization."

Science North is one of Northern Ontario's most popular tourist attractions and educational resources, operating the second-largest science centre in the province and eighth-largest in Canada. Science North's award-winning attractions also include an IMAX theatre, planetarium, butterfly gallery, special exhibits hall and Dynamic Earth: Home of the Big Nickel.

Kosar said the benefits the science centre provides the city extend beyond the centre's doors.

Job creation

"It provides jobs, it's a tourist attraction, when people come here, they spend their money elsewhere, hotels and restaurants and see other attractions," Kosar said. "And we have spread out influence all over northern Ontario, northwestern Ontario, with some of our outreach programs."

The announcement includes more than $219,000 for student employment opportunities through the Ontario Summer Experience Program.

This summer, Science North has provided 600 complimentary passes to front-line health care workers from the region to show appreciation for their hard work and dedication during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The science centre, in partnership with Laurentian University, offers North America’s first and only comprehensive science communication program, a joint master’s and diploma program.

Science North also oversees an award-winning international sales unit, which develops custom and ready-made exhibits and multimedia experiences for sale to science centres, museums, and other cultural institutions all over the world.