By Bob Burns for Fountain Hills Times
The Fountain Hills Town Council voted June 18 to approve the next stage toward the launch of the Arizona Dark Sky Discovery Center in Fountain Hills.
The 6-0 unanimous vote was to authorize the use of town-owned land adjacent to the Centennial Circle next to the Cutillo Civic Plaza.
Joe Bill, president of the board of directors for the project, brought the council up to date on plans for the discovery center non-profit corporation before the vote.
Bill said the long-term lease of the property is contingent on a successful fundraising effort to build the center. The fundraising campaign is expected to begin in early fall and cover the entire cost of the facility.
A feasibility study prepared for the group projects a project goal of roughly $10M based on a 2022 construction timeline.
The study projects a construction and technology budget of $6.1M with the additional $4M earmarked for five years of operational costs, exclusive of any revenue taken in during the first five years.
The facility is proposed to be 13KSF-14KSF with four main components including an observatory, planetarium, exhibit hall and auditorium/theater. There is also a plan for a classroom, offices and gift shop.
The telescope observatory would be used for special tours, student activities, events and astrophotography. The planetarium would have typical astronomy shows as well as a variety of other laser shows. Interactive and informative displays would be part of the exhibit hall and the auditorium/theater would allow for lectures and visual presentations.
With the council authorization to work with town-owned land, the committee can begin its focus on fundraising. The project will not use any public funding and rely on contributions. Bill said they will be looking to offer naming rights for each of the four focus components – observatory, planetarium, exhibit hall and auditorium/theater – as well as the overall facility.
The site for the center occupies a portion of the existing Community Garden and the discovery center board worked closely with the garden board to arrive at an agreement that will allow the garden to maintain the number of beds available. The discovery center project will take care of replacing or relocating the displaced beds and equipment, as well as provide access to a restroom for garden patrons.
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