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Science Central’s Legacy ask put on hold

November 16, 2018

A $500,000 Fort Wayne Legacy Fund request from Science Central for a new planetarium was put on hold Thursday until January while questions about fundraising are sorted out. 

At the same time, a concept letter for a $7 million request from Arts United moved forward to the application phase. However, it’s unclear when that application will be reviewed by the city’s Legacy Joint Funding Committee. 

The Legacy Fund contains money generated by the lease and sale of the city’s old power utility. In 2015, the fund was up to about $48 million.

However, on Tuesday, Committee Chairman Kyle Kerley said if both Arts United and Science Central receive their requested amounts, the money in the fund available for grants could drop to just over $1 million. That figure does not take into account potential gains or losses in the stock market, Kerley said. 

Science Central’s $2.4 million project will install a planetarium inside the facility’s existing building. Once complete, the exhibit will be used for educational programming designed to engage the public on all aspects of space exploration, said Martin Fisher, Science Central’s executive director. The planetarium will put to use a currently empty portion of the Science Central building.

“For those that don’t know, half the building was developed into Science Central, visitor ready, visitor safe,” Fisher said. “Half the building is raw, untapped and unused. That’s where we put our Science on a Sphere exhibit and that’s where we’re going to put the planetarium exhibit.”

That means Science Central won’t have to tear up existing infrastructure to make room for the planetarium, thereby increasing the square footage of the facility, Fisher said. 

Although there appeared to be consensus that the project is worthy of Legacy funds, there were questions raised about the amount of private funds Science Central still has to raise to make the project a reality. 

Fisher said he has secured about $1.35 million for the project already. Should the Legacy Fund request be granted, Fisher said the outstanding fundraising would shore up the remaining 25 percent necessary. 

There were also questions raised about how much money, if any, Science Central receives from the city of Fort Wayne each year. While Fisher said Science Central does not receive an annual check from the city, City Councilman Paul Ensley and others noted that there appears to be a $100,000-a-year subsidy for the facility in the city budget, possibly for maintenance and other capital expenses at the site. The city, Fisher said, owns the building and the land on which it sits.

Those questions are expected to be answered before the committee votes on the project early next year.

dgong@jg.net

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