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Monday, March 25 , 2019, 1:21 pm | A Few Clouds 61º


New Venture Seeks to Develop Space Center on City-Owned Land in Lompoc

Council hears from Pale Blue Dot Ventures representatives seeking to build entertainment and educational facility

Steve Francke, second from right, speaks to the Lompoc City Council on Tuesday night. Click to view larger
Steve Francke, second from right, speaks to the Lompoc City Council on Tuesday night while his colleagues stand behind him to talk about the Pale Blue Dot Ventures desire to build a space center in Lompoc. (Contributed photo)

Lompoc City Council members got their first peek at the latest proposal to create a space-themed entertainment and education center on Tuesday night, and agreed they wanted to hear more.

Representatives of a group called Pale Blue Dot Ventures presented the proposal for city-owned land near the Allan Hancock College Lompoc Valley Center, saying their mission seeks to entertain, inspire and educate.

“We really have a unique opportunity to build an entertainment and educational destination right here up the street not far from where we stand,” said Steve Francke, the leader of the venture..

He recognized the group represents the latest team attempting what others have tried — and failed — to create in the Lompoc Valley.

But Pale Blue Dot Ventures has a compelling opportunity now to tell the story of space and space exploration while advancing science, Francke told the council.

“We’re not kidding — we have every intention of building a national treasure here in Lompoc,” he added.

Unlike Cape Canaveral, Florida, the Lompoc Valley lacks a visitor center or public viewing site for launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base. Their project would include that and more.

The new group based its name, Pale Blue Dot Ventures, on Carl Sagan’s description of Earth in an image taken by Voyager I while orbiting the planet in 1990. Sagan said that from 3.7 billion miles away, the planet looked like a small pale blue dot in the vast space.”

In addition to Francke, the team includes Bob Allen, who spent more than 40 years working for the Walt Disney Company and will serve as creative director for the Lompoc project. His firm, Ideas, is based in Orlando, Florida. 

Others on the team are Irvine-based David Exline as the designer and architect, and Integrated Insight for market analytics. 

“This is a creative enterprise, but the creative is only valuable if it’s grounded in real market reality,” Allen said. 

The project would bring jobs during construction and afterward, Allen said, while boosting the transient occupancy tax as visitors stay at local hotels and spend money locally.

In 2017 in Santa Barbara County, the per-capita spending rate for tourists exceeded $436 daily, according to Allen's research. 

If space center tourists spend half that rate, the estimated 300,000 visitors would add up to almost $66 million annually, Allen said.

“We think there’s a lot of direct spend, and a lot of that sticks to your ribs here in Lompoc,” Allen said.

Pale Blue Dot Ventures said it hoped to secure an agreement granting it an exclusive dealing agreement with the city. During that year-long effort, the firm would conduct a feasibility study and secure up to $750,000 in seed financing.

At the end of the process, they said, they hope to ultimately secure a land agreement from the city and proceed to development. 

Tuesday night’s council agenda called for members to hear the presentation, but not take action. 

Instead, the council directed City Manager Jim Throop to bring the item back to a future meeting for consideration of the next steps.

The most recent effort to build the space center crashed when space enthusiast Eva Blaisdell missed a number of deadlines to provide information to the city. 

Blue Dot Ventures representatives told Mayor Jenelle Osborne on Tuesday night that they reviewed the prior document given to Blaisdell and found the city requests prudent and expected.

Other efforts to build a similar facility involved a former mayor spearheading efforts to create the Western Spaceport Museum and Science Center, but that ended in the early 1990s. 

Later, the California Spaceport Authority also sought to build a space center, initially on military property and later on the city-owned land. The California Space Authority disbanded in 2011.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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