Hutchinson A worsening economy isn’t enough to deter Kansas Cosmosphere officials from planning to do more than $10 million in expansions at the Hutchinson space center.
A centerpiece of the improvements is a new, 30,000-square-foot Space Science Education Facility that’s estimated to cost $8 million. It would be built across the street from the Cosmosphere at the site of a former flower shop, and an enclosed bridge would link the two buildings.
There also would be a new gallery on space missions, a space shuttle exhibit that includes a full cockpit, and a rocketry gallery at the museum’s entrance.
Cosmosphere Chief Executive Chris Orwoll said the biggest challenge will be raising funds for the five-year expansion project.
Ann Brown, chairwoman of the Kansas Cosmosphere Foundation, agreed that her group has its work cut out for it.
“We’re down like everyone else,” Brown said, “but we are realistic. We are going to take things in phases, with projects people can digest.”
The facility hopes to see a 66 percent increase in annual visitors after the expansion is finished, a 50 percent increase in in-state memberships and a 20 percent increase in out-of-state memberships.
Orwoll said it’s important to expand the Cosmosphere’s physical space so that all the center’s artifacts can be displayed. A number of large artifacts are in warehouses, Orwoll said.
“It is our desire to obtain a new facility so that all artifacts could be housed in one location and all enclosed,” he said in an e-mail.
While acknowledging that fundraising could have a major impact on construction timelines, officials say they don’t think the goals of the strategic plan will change.
“Obviously we won’t be able to do the goals until we have funding in place,” said Kim Corcoran, chairman of the Cosmosphere’s governing board.