The Strong National Museum of Play officially unveiled its 90,000-square-foot-expansion on June 30, after a ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring museum leaders, elected officials, community leaders, and key partners. The museum’s expansion—the final part of a larger, $75-million museum project that includes a whimsical parking garage—sits at the center of the all-new Neighborhood of Play. The expansion features more than 24,000-square-feet of exhibit space dedicated to the celebration of electronic games and an additional 17,000-square-feet of outdoor exhibit space exploring the influence of board games.
“This project started many years ago when the City of Rochester, with federal and state support, made the commitment to filling the Inner Loop, creating usable land, and reconnecting neighborhoods. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a unique destination—unlike anything else in the world—centered around play,” said Steve Dubnik, president and CEO of The Strong. “We’re thrilled to welcome guests from near and far to this new, immersive space.”
“This ribbon-cutting marks the start of a new chapter at The Strong National Museum of Play, one of the region’s biggest tourist attractions and the engine behind our continued efforts to further revitalize downtown Rochester,” Governor Kathy Hochul said. “For more than half a century, The Strong has drawn visitors from around the globe with its fascinating exhibits and dazzling displays, and thanks to state support, it will continue to do so for many years to come. Smart, strategic investments in New York’s cultural anchors are key to driving tourism, creating jobs, and boosting the economy, and I remain committed to supporting institutions like The Strong to unlock our state’s economic potential.”
The expansion includes a new welcome atrium, with an OLED butterfly canopy, and gift shop on the first floor. A new connection building—the Portal of Play—acts as a gateway to the existing parking garage (opened in phase one of the project) and expanded space.
Just at the top of the second floor sits the world’s largest, playable Donkey Kong arcade game (nearly 20 feet tall). The second-floor features the immersive ESL Digital Worlds, which offers guests two progressive, video game-centric areas. In Level Up, they can create their own personalized avatars and embark on challenging and puzzle-solving quests. In High Score, guests will learn about the business and art of the video game industry and discover the incredible stories behind the World Video Game Hall of Fame and Women in Games exhibit.
“We are proud supporters of The Strong and the new ESL Digital Worlds gallery because we believe that we all must work together—private, public, and nonprofit sectors—to support our museums and cultural venues,” said Faheem Masood, president and CEO, ESL Federal Credit Union. “These institutions are crucial pieces to building a thriving and prosperous community. As we have seen with The Strong’s expansion, such institutions have the ability to both positively impact neighborhoods and the lives of those who walk through their doors. To be a part of this was truly special for ESL and we wish a big congratulations to our neighbors at The Strong for seeing this project through that will inspire and entertain many for years to come.”
Outside, the expansion includes the larger-than-life Hasbro Game Park, which boasts an 18-foot, fire breathing dragon from Dungeons & Dragons; towering candy canes from Candy Land; a rideable spinner from the Game of Life; a giant Scottie dog from Monopoly; and other features from beloved Hasbro board games. The expansion also added two public plazas—Riedman Commons and Riedman Plaza.
The project was funded through Powered by Play: A Campaign for The Strong, and key supporters include Empire State Development; Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation; U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration; ESL Federal Credit Union; Suzanne & Tony Goodman; Alan & Vivien Hassenfeld and The Hassenfeld Family Foundation; Austin McChord; National Endowment for the Humanities; The Riedman Foundation; The Mary C. Valentine & Andrew R. Costman Trusts; Joanne Fox; Willian & Sheila Konar Foundation; LeChase Construction Services LLC; Lisk Morris Foundation, Inc.; New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature; Rochester Gas & Electric Corporation; Toy Association; and The Louis S. & Molly B. Wolk Foundation.
The Strong anticipates that annual museum attendance will grow to nearly one million by 2026 with the expansion, up from a previous high of 600,000 pre-pandemic. With the new space, The Strong is one of the largest history museums in the United States. Rochester’s Neighborhood of Play—developed in collaboration with Konar Properties and Indus Hospitality Group—also features residential and retail spaces, including a video-game themed restaurant, as well as a new, family-friendly Hampton Inn & Suites located adjacent to the museum.
For more information on The Strong National Museum of Play and its expansion, visit https://www.museumofplay.org.
About The Strong
The Strong is the only collections-based museum in the world devoted solely to play. It is home to the International Center for the History of Electronic Games, the National Toy Hall of Fame, the World Video Game Hall of Fame, the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play, Woodbury School, and the American Journal of Play and houses the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of historical materials related to play.