Atlantis Addition to Make Memories for Millions

by William Moore

Over the last few years, we have lived through a period of transition surrounding the Space Shuttle Program.  Now that a direction has been identified, it is time to usher in a new era – the celebration of a fleet of awe-inspiring spacecraft that have launched humans into orbit for 30 years.

In April, Space Coast residents celebrated the announcement that Space Shuttle Atlantis would be coming home for good to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.  The news led to jubilant celebrations across the county as people acknowledged the benefits to be derived on two fronts.  The first wave of celebration was full of emotion and pride.  Now, we await the anticipated economic benefits.  To better understand the full economic picture, the Economic Development Commission created an economic impact analysis that identifies the areas in which we stand the most to gain as a community economically.

An Uptick in Attendance

For many years at the Visitor Complex, we have welcomed the swell of visitors that arrive each time a shuttle is launched, clamoring to be a part of history.  Each year, more than 1.5 million guests from around the world experience their very own space adventure by exploring the past, present and future of America’s space program at KSC.  With no manned launches scheduled for the foreseeable future, imagine the possibilities that a new year-round attraction so rooted in history will provide for our community!

Based on projections, the permanent display of Atlantis is expected to boost attendance here by 15 percent, or 225,000 more people a year.  This attendance uptick equates to $15.6 million in new economic impact, including $8.4 million in gross domestic product, as well as 106 permanent jobs. For the Atlantis attraction alone, more than 30 new people will be hired to staff the exhibit.  Each new job created is critically important as the effects of the shuttle shutdown continue to be felt across our region.

New Exhibit Means New Jobs

These impressive numbers don’t include construction of the new 65,000 square foot orbiter facility which will provide the most immediate monetary impact.  The large-scale project is expected to create more than 300 construction jobs over the next two years and provide more than $90 million in new output over the course of construction.  Construction will begin next year with the exhibit scheduled to open in 2013.  The building for Atlantis will be connected to the Shuttle Launch Experience simulator attraction, another popular experience among tourists and locals.

Not only will the flow of spending from visitors paying to see Atlantis up close and personal create a boost, in addition, the incidental purchases made by these same people throughout Brevard County will also create a ripple effect.  The various types of visitors to this exhibit can be classified into three groups – overnight visitors (those staying in Brevard County who do not ordinarily reside in the area), day trippers (those entering and leaving Brevard County the same day) and local residents.  These groups will combine to give added benefits to local hotels, restaurants, retail stores and everything in between. We estimate Visitor Complex-induced off-site spending will add an additional $3.8 million to the local business community.

Securing Space Shuttle Atlantis for our community will exponentially increase our economic contribution to the Space Coast.  Although the numbers tell an exciting story, the true value of what Atlantis will provide for our community extends far beyond what can be recorded in monetary terms.  It keeps a part of the heart and soul of the space program alive for everyone to see.  After all, this is the place where dreams have been launched for 30 years.  We intend to keep the momentum going.