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Dinofest 2000 Dispute
Like others on the mailing list, I was curious about rumors regarding
Dinofest 2000. The following article, printed in the Monday, December 6,
1999, issue of the St. Louis (MO) Post-Dispatch, sheds some light on the
PLANS FOR DINOSAUR EXHIBIT END IN DISPUTE
St. Louis Science Center Sues Paleontologist in Charge of Dinofest 2000
By Tim Bryant
Of the Post-Dispatch
The 12 truckloads of fossils, robotic models and other displays that compose
Dinofest 2000 remain in crates or are wrapped in blankets at a St. Louis
warehouse. That the artifacts won't go on display next spring at the Trans
World Dome is at the center of a dispute between the St. Louis Science Center
and the event's creator, Donald L. Wolberg.
The Science Center's foundation is suing Wolberg, a paleontologist and chief
executive of the Natural History Development Co. of Voorhees, N.J. Science
Center officials want back the $115,000 they say they advanced Wolberg to
help produce Dinofest 2000.
The center also wants Wolberg to pay for storing the artifacts, which have
been at a warehouse since May 1998. Storage and insurance costs reached
nearly $60,000 by the end of August. That increases by more than $3,000 a
month, Science Center lawyers say.
The Science Center's suit, filed in September, is scheduled for trial in
November in U.S. District Court. Both sides say they would like to settle the
dispute. Wolberg's lawyer, Leo Garvin, said his client could agree to take
over the warehouse lease. Garvin said Friday that Wolberg's loss far exceeds
the Science Center's advance to help put on the $3 million event, which
includes seminars and workshops.
Wolberg contends in court papers that the Science Center broke its agreement
to provide money for Dinofest 2000.
Garvin said, "If (the case) gets settled, it will have to be (with) some
money coming from the Science Center."
Dinofest 2000 would have been the fourth such exhibit produced by Wolberg
since 1993. The third, in Philadelphia last year, filled much of the city's
old convention center and drew 400,000 visitors. By then, talks were well
underway for Wolberg to put on Dinofest 2000 in St. Louis.
Negotiations had progressed to the stage that the 12 tractor-trailers and
flatbed trucks needed to move Dinofest came straight to St. Louis after the
show closed in Philadelphia. At the time, Science Center officials were
enthusiastic about plans for the show said their lawyer, Gerard Carmody.
Science officials had gone to Philadelphia to meet Wolberg.
"There was a high level of excitement, not only about the product itself but
that we could also make some money on it" Carmody said.
By one estimate, admission fees collected over the exhibit's four-week run
could have produced a profit of $2 million to $3 million, with Wolberg and
the Science Center splitting the money after income reached a certain level.
But Wolberg got in over his head financially, Carmody said Friday. Wolberg
never raised the money for Dinofest or even a scaled-down event that could
have been staged someplace other than the Dome downtown, Carmody said.
The Science Center's suit alleges that Dinofest plans fell through Oct. 12,
1998, when Wolberg told Science Center officials he lacked financial backing.
Now the Science Center wants its advance money back and reimbursement for its
Dwight Crandell, the center's executive vice president, said that he's unsure
of the collection's value, but that it is insured for $5 million. The
center's suit contends that many of the items are on loan to Wolberg from
museums and other institutions worldwide.
Wolberg, who divides his time between residences in New Jersey and New
Mexico, is a well-known paleontologist who moves in the field's "highest
circles," Crandell said.
Gavin, Wolberg's attorney, likened the center's suit to a "pre-emptive
strike" because the institution worried that Wolberg was going to sue first.
When it became clear the center would not come up with the money needed for
Dinofest 2000, it was too late to stage it elsewhere, he said.
If the case is to be settled, the center must pay, he said.