Space center may get new management

DOWNEY - The 18,000-sq.-ft. Columbia Memorial Space Center may soon be under new management. At least that's the intention of a five-page request for proposal issued by the city last month seeking new overall management and operation of the learning center, which has struggled to achieve financial sustainability since opening in 2009.

Shannon DeLong, interim executive director of the Columbia Memorial Space Center, says the decision to seek affiliation with another organization was an objective set by the City Council earlier this year.

"The council requested staff to find opportunities for future sustainability by maximizing the space center's potential," said DeLong. "Through this process we're hoping to find someone who is interested in assisting us in making the space center the gem we want it to be."

Touting the center's location and potential, city officials are hoping to catch the eye of an existing museum, science center, or similar organization that can turn the facility into a fun, yet educational hub that celebrates Downey's aerospace history and the legacy of space shuttle Columbia.

While finding overall management for the center might be the council's immediate goal, financial sustainability is most certainly the long-term objective.

Today, nearly 60 percent of the center's budget is paid for out of the general fund, DeLong said. Although grants, admission and rental fees, gift shop sales, and special events provide some revenue, currently it does not provide enough to cover the center's expenses.

"In these tough times, councilmembers are asking all departments to look at their operational costs," DeLong said. "We had to ask -- how can we make sure the space center has long-term sustainability?"

Located at 12400 Columbia Way, the two-story space facility welcomed nearly 26,000 patrons last fiscal year and hosted 260 field trips. In addition to a four-week summer camp, the center also offers science workshops, quarterly stargazing events and an annual rocket festival.

The Columbia Memorial Space Center, which features interactive, science-based exhibits and a Challenger Learning Center, currently maintains two full-time employees and 14 part-time workers. Next year, a second building will be constructed next door to the center to house the city's space shuttle mock-up, Inspiration.

DeLong maintains the city is not targeting any particular groups, but has kept the submission process open in order to collect proposal ideas on everything from conducting field trips and facility management to scheduling rental uses and managing technical support.

"The request for proposal was written flexibly and open-ended," DeLong said. "An organization might be interested in the whole thing or just a small aspect of the center, for instance, there might be a vender interested in running the gift store or managing our preschool or after school programs."

Interested parties are encouraged to mail in their proposals by next Friday, no later than 5 p.m.

********** Published: July 11, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 13