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Challenger Space Center finds temporary home in Phoenix

Posted at 4:31 AM, Nov 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-02 13:57:32-04

The Challenger Space Center of Arizona has found a new home in Phoenix and with it, an urgent mission -- to raise enough money to make the move and be ready for launch.

The Paradise Valley Unified School District's Governing Board unanimously approved a two-year partnership with the Arizona space center Thursday evening to move into the former Foothills Elementary School building near 44th Street and Grovers Avenue.

Under the agreement, the space center will pay the district $1 a year in rent and will also provide STEM-related tours, workshops, and classes to its students valued at $35,000.

Both the district and the space center have the option to renew in two-year increments. 

The building, however, does require some renovations to become ADA-compliant, including installing ramps and lifts to access the space center's famed space flight simulator when installed.

Executive Director Beverly Swayman said it will cost $30,000 to purchase and install one of those ramps. That needs to happen before they can move in.

Moving and installing 17 years of artifacts, memorabilia and exhibits will, conservatively, cost upwards of $200,000, she estimates.

Though, Jeff Goldberg, the interim senior vice president for Academic Affairs and Provost for the University of Arizona, and a board member at the Challenger Center, said it could top $500,000.

They are hoping the public will assist with their capital campaign. They have a goal to raise the money within 30 days. You can donate, here.

An exact opening timeframe has not been determined.

"We were hoping for a long-term partner and we hope it's a decade or more even. So, we've got to a really fantastic deal with Paradise Valley, " Goldberg said. "They are excited. They really like the kind of things that we do; we like what they're doing...but, we're going to keep our mission of doing that kind of programming for any school district."

After Thursday's meeting, Dr. Kim Guerin, assistant superintendent of elementary leadership for Paradise Valley Unified School District, said she was "excited that our students will be able to experience this innovative programming."

The district has been using the old school building as part of its Community Learning Center. That program will relocate to a new building next year, she said.

The Challenger Space Center opened in 2000 in Peoria.

In 2017, it was announced that its building was sold and the facility and its exhibits would have to move out. It closed to the public in August 2017.

For the last several months, the space center has been operating out of a smaller space within Metrocenter mall. The artifacts and exhibits were placed in storage.

The Arizona center is an affiliate of the national Challenger Center, which was created by the families of those lost in the 1986 Challenger Shuttle disaster.