Las Vegas Sun

November 30, 2015

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Despite setbacks, board still bullish on Henderson Space and Science Center


A conceptual model of the Henderson Space and Science Center.

Henderson Space and Science Center

An artist's rendering depicts the outdoor exhibits courtyard at the Henderson Space and Science Center. Launch slideshow »

A year ago, leaders behind the Henderson Space and Science Center announced an ambitious goal of raising $30 million over five years to make a project that has been talked about for decades into a reality.

Backed with a $25 million commitment from the Henderson city government’s land fund and a financial plan created by Gallagher Associates, the company that helped raise money for the nearly half-billion-dollar Smith Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Las Vegas, Space and Science Center officials were optimistic their project had finally turned a corner after years of planning.

Nearly a year later, the project is again on the ropes. The center, estimated to cost between $50 million and $60 million, has brought in less than $1 million of the $4 million officials hoped to raise in the first year of the capital campaign.

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The city had given $4 million to the center for architectural designs and public works costs, according to a city spokesperson. But in March, the city pulled its commitment for the other $21 million, leaving the center without a clear source of financing. Its executive director, Jack Clark, resigned in June, making him the second executive director to leave in the organization’s short history, and the staff has shrunk to just one part-time employee.

But a volunteer board of directors still guiding the organization is refusing to give up on the goal of bringing a science center to Henderson, even if it takes a little longer than expected.

“It’s more a question of timing. We were not really in a position to do what we’re doing today any earlier,” board chairman and former Henderson Mayor Jim Gibson said. “We needed … the mock-up, the architect’s design, to show people what we have in mind. We needed the programming element so we could describe the things we’re hoping to accomplish inside of it. All of that is done.”

A search is under way for a capital campaign director to raise money for the center, and Gibson said there’s still a possibility to tap into city funding if the center’s leaders can show they have a clear plan and have made progress toward their fundraising goal.

A conceptual design and model presented this year shows the potential for the Space and Science Center, which leaders envision being filled with hands-on, interactive exhibits that appeal to multiple age groups. It would sit on five acres next to the proposed Union Village complex near U.S. 95 and Galleria Drive.

Gibson, president of, a sister company of the Greenspun Media Group, which owns the Las Vegas Sun, said the center would especially appeal to students and teachers and could help supplement science and math education in the Clark County School District, where test scores rank among the lowest in the nation.

The chances of the center opening by the summer of 2015 — the initial targeted opening date — continue to shrink and will depend on the success of fundraising efforts. But Gibson said the delays are minor compared with the decades-long impact building the center could have on the valley.

“If we didn’t pursue something that was hard, much of what you see in the city of Henderson wouldn’t be here today,” Gibson said. “If this is worth doing and is doable, then a year or two really won’t matter at all.”

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