Challenger Space Center's building in Peoria has new owner

Share on

The school district that once partnered with Challenger Space Center in Peoria now will own the building. The space

The Peoria Unified School District will take over the building adjacent to one of its high schools that for 17 years housed the Arizona Challenger Space Center. 

The district’s governing board approved a land swap with Kevin Knight of the Knight Transportation Group on Thursday.

Knight has been a benefactor for Challenger since it opened in 2000, but the non-profit has been unable to repay him a $3.6 million loan.

Officials at Challenger, a museum and education center dedicated to space exploration, closed Aug. 5 in anticipation of the sale and move. The center has not yet secured a new home. 

To acquire the building, the district will swap two vacant lots — one on 75th Avenue near Greenway Road and one near 89th and Orangewood avenues, across the street from the Raymond Kellis High School. Together, the 1.5 acres of district land is valued at $4 million.

The Challenger building was appraised at $4.4 million.

The district is expected to use the facility to host student programs in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.  

“The logical choice was to exchange two dormant assets for a space that would allow us to expand upon our personalized learning model and meet additional students’ needs," Superintendent Darwin Stiffler said.

The district is expected to share more detailed plans for the building by the end of August. 

Knight will donate about $251,000 to the district for remodeling and building upgrades.

challenger-space-centers-building-in-peoria-has-new-owner photo 1

The Arizona Challenger Space Center's building has a three-story, 360-degree mural by well-known NASA artist and movie illustrator Robert McCall. (Photo: Sean Logan/The Republic)

A troubled organization

The Challenger Space Center in Peoria launched with community support in 2000.

The community raised about $4 million to open the $7.2 million center in partnership with the Peoria Unified School District. The center on 83rd Avenue is adjacent to Sunrise Mountain High School.

By 2005, the district stopped paying Challenger employees because the center, which was supposed to repay the district, had run up a $1 million debt. By that point, Knight was already shouldering the building mortgage not covered by donations.

He ended up providing the center with money to purchase the property from the school district, too.

The center and the district officially parted ways in 2008, and Challenger agreed to give $35,000 in mission credit to the district, said Ken Hicks, chief financial officer for the district.

The balance of Challenger’s debt to the district is at $723,300, but that the debt will “go away” with the acquisition of the building, Hicks said. 

Challenger's debt to Knight is now at $3.8 million, but with the sale of the building, the debt is eliminated. 

Beverly Swayman, executive director of the Challenger Space Center, told The Arizona Republic in July it is in talks with a handful of West Valley cities and universities.

A partnership with a city or university would put the center — and its mission — on a sound financial path, she said.

 

 

 

Read or Share this story: http://azc.cc/2wDzO3G

Share on
Article Challenger Space Center's building in Peoria has new owner compiled by www.azcentral.com

You might also like