Top 10 stories of 2023: Port Wonder is coming to life

Published 2:44 pm Saturday, December 30, 2023

Few have seen anything like the iconic Port Wonder design taking shape on the lakefront.

Randy Goodloe, a Lake Charles architect selected for the project in 2018, collaborated with CambridgeSeven, an architectural firm that designs children’s museums all over the world, to bring the structure to life.

Port Wonder – a $20 million-plus lakefront development project first announced in 2018 – will be the new home for the Children’s Museum as well as the new Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Nature and Science Center.

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“The building form was rooted in the idea of two elements coming together,” said Paul Hebert, associate principal at CambridgeSeven. “The one big curve coming in from the east and the smaller curve coming in from the west stems from the Children’s Museum and Nature Center coming together.”

The two forms reaching toward one another started as angular forms, Herbert said, and during the creative, interactive process those forms were softened into the wave look.

“The importance of this project cannot be understated as to the effect it will have not only on our lakefront area, but also on the plan for this facility to become a major destination point for all of Southwest Louisiana and, of course, the many travelers who drive past our beautiful lakefront and city.”

Port Wonder is built seven feet above grade. Laminated wood beams had to be wrapped with a protective coating to maintain the finish that will be exposed within the interior spaces. A metal roof system is also being used that can be curved and provided in one continuous sheet of material, plus meet wind speed requirements.

Within the next few months, Crying Eagle’s full service restaurant – which will be placed between Port Wonder and the newly renovated parking garage – will break ground. Lake Area Adventures and Paul’s Ribshack are slated to be built on North Beach, west of the old Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Headquarters. Parking improvements are also planned for North Beach.

For both Port Wonder and Lake Area Adventures, there are plans to build piers. The current restroom facilities are on the docket to be demolished and replaced within the next few months.

“We have dreamed of redevelopment of our lake’s north shore for years and now we are making that dream a reality,” Mayor Nic Hunter said. “From the day we announced this project there has been a buzz of excitement and we want to keep building on that up until we officially open the doors around this time next year.”

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