Backers hope Lompoc space center project launches
With space launches at Vandenberg Air Force Base becoming more frequent, bringing in some 200,000 visitors to witness launches in 2018, a proposal for an educational space center is once again in the works.
“The public interest in space is extraordinary,” said project lead Steven Franck as he and business partner Bob Allen pitched the idea for an interactive space center on city property at a March 4 city council meeting.
Franck is the founder and CEO of Pale Blue Dot Ventures.
The idea for a space center, located on some 80 acres near Highway 1 and Hancock Drive, has been floating around for several years. There have been at least three failed attempts previously to get a project off the ground.
But this time around, city and community leaders said they have more reason to be hopeful.
“Pale Blue Dot Ventures came at it with more business experience, not just a ‘pie in the sky’ idea,” said Marlee Bedford, communications and program director at the Lompoc Valley Chamber of Commerce. “I think everybody wants something extra in Lompoc, and this community is a good option.”
The Florida-based company has experience working on space-related projects both nationally and internationally, and Allen has more than 40 years of experience at Walt Disney in the theme park industry. It’s also serious about raising capital.
The Pale Blue Dot Ventures team has solidified a group of financial advisers and completed a friends and family fundraising round.
It identified a 10-month window for raising around $500,000 to $750,000 in seed capital and completing the project’s preliminary steps.
“We think it’s a unique under-discovered opportunity, but negotiations are at a sensitive stage right now,” Franck said on a phone call with the Business Times, declining to provide any more details. “We hope our project would bring in a lot more exposure to the city and increase its visibility as a tourist destination.”
The Pale Blue Dot Ventures team is currently in talks with the city to enter into an approximately 12-month holding agreement on the property that’s previously been considered for a space-themed visitor’s center where people can watch launches and engage in exhibits.
Franck said the team doesn’t want to create “a static space museum, but a vibrant interaction for people” as part of its goal to entertain, inspire and educate.
Vandenberg is the only launching facility on the West Coast, which is why Lompoc is an ideal spot for the space center, Franck said, adding “I wouldn’t be trying to do this in Los Angeles or Dallas.”
City Mayor Jenelle Osborne said the Ventures team has a solid concept and has identified a community need.
“I’d be thrilled if a space and education center was built out here,” she said, adding that if the company is able to prove financial soundness and an ability to deliver she’d be excited to see the project unfold.
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