Lompoc Moves Forward with Space Center Project | News
By Keith Carls - email
LOMPOC - The Lompoc City Council has granted an exclusive negotiating agreement (ENA) with non-profit firm Environmental Education Group (EEG), to begin exploring the possibility of building a California Space Enterprise Center on city-owned land.
Some are calling it one of the most important projects in the history of the entire Lompoc Valley.
Skeptics are calling it a "pie in the sky" dream that will never live up to the promises floated by the project's supporters.
The City of Lompoc is trying to breathe new life into a shelved plan by the now-defunct California Space Authority that was supposed to build a Space Center for visitors at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
But the project never got off the drawing board due to a lack of financial and moral support.
Now the City of Lompoc wants to build the same project, with added features, on more than 100 acres of land it owns adjacent to Adam Park and Allan Hancock College.
The City hopes its proposed "Space Enterprise Center" will eventually bring thousands of good-paying jobs and millions of visitors to the Lompoc Valley.
"The same model that we adopted that was for the California Space Authority previously, we had signed and turned into the city attorney and have been waiting for the City Council to approve that", says Environmental Education Group Chairman Alan Tratner, "that will allow us to finally go out and make some real deals, letters of intent, do a pro-forma business plan, get everything together about building this amazing facility for this community in Santa Barbara County."
The plan is to build the Space Enterprise Center on land owned by the city near Adam Park and Allan Hancock College.
"The coalition that is for a space investment summit has given us a letter of endorsement of support and wants to work with us at Allan Hancock College later this year perhaps in the late Fall of Winter", Tratner says, "to produce an international Space Investment Summit here in Lompoc in conjunction with the California Space Enterprise Center."
Tratner says building the center near Vandenberg Air Force Base is critically important.
"Its big role because of the private space enterprise, Space-X and what's happening there, the fact that it's the mecca for people watching the space launches", Tratner says, "if everything happens the way its set out in the next couple of years, there may be as many as one launch a month or more which will be an amazing attraction."
"In addition to what we are trying to do with the flavor of the Space Center itself, and how it will operate, how it will look as a world class attraction, have the incubator for private space enterprise, the educational programs, the museum", Tratner says, "all of the components that were originally proposed and all of the new things we want to do with it, I think it will have an amazing impact for our region."
Skeptics of the Space Enterprise Center, many of whom have been waging an anonymous opposition campaign through the local media, argue the City of Lompoc should be talking with more than just one group, especially one that has experience in building and running major site attractions, instead of granting exclusive negotiating rights to the non-profit EEG which skeptics claim has little or no experience in financing, building and running a project like the proposed Space Center.
The skeptics also say the proposed job creation and projected visitor numbers that were used by the former California Space Authority for a regional Space Center project are tremendously over-inflated and no longer relevant to the current or forecasted local economy.
"These were real professional studies", Tratner replies, "what we're going to do is re-look at what the complexion will be for those 100 or so acres up there and how we're going to pull this off in stages."
"We believe as a non-profit, and the experience that our Board of Directors, our special Board for the Space Center project, we'll be able to put together a different complexion for the total costs", Tratner says.
Certainly there may be three times the impact, because we are doing more than they had originally set out in fostering space enterprise", Tratner says, "bringing students from all over California and having a world-class attraction for people to come and visit Lompoc and see this."
The Lompoc City Council voted 3-1 to grant the "ENA" to EEG, with councilwoman Ashley Costa voting no and councilwoman Cecilia Martner absent.
EEG now has 180 days to complete a business plan for the proposed Space Enterprise Center and submit it to the City Council before the project can continue to move forward.