EL PASO, Texas - What's the future of El Paso School District's planetarium?
Free summer presentations kicked off Monday at the Gene Roddenberry Planetarium. But the district's lease is set to expire in 2019. So ABC-7 asked, what does the future hold?
"We always hear that. We've been hearing that rumor forever: that we're getting rid of the planetarium," said planetarium director Tim Holt, "In the next few years, we're looking for a space for the planetarium to move to and there's a lot of options we can be looking at. The district is looking at the properties it is vacating so we're looking at maybe a gymnasium that's not going to be used in the future."
The Gene Roddenberry Planetarium, which has a 40 foot dome that lights up with stars, was built nearly 50 years ago. It costs the district about $100,000 a year to operate. Since opening its doors, about 2-million children have sat in its seats and explored the wonders of space.
EPISD Spokesperson Melissa Martinez said the planetarium will continue to be a part of EPISD, but its future location is still pending.
Several years ago, the city of El Paso decided to not renew the district's lease for its central office location because the city said it wanted the land for development purposes.
Martinez said the district requested to extend the lease of a city owned building which houses the planetarium and its district headquarters. Employees will now be staying in the central office until 2019.
In the mean time, the district is slowly in the process of moving all 850 employees. Martinez said the district is looking to purchase property near downtown El Paso, as well as using existing properties.
She said currently there are operations in north east El Paso, the district's transportation hub in south central El Paso, as well as having some employees operate out of the district's former Houston Elementary school.
So ABC-7 asked, where will the planetarium go? Holt said they're still deciding.
"If we were to build it straight from the ground it would cost about $4 million, if we were building from an existing location it wouldn't cost nearly as much," he said.
But one thing's for sure, the district said it will be taking the equipment and the history it brings, with them.