The River Region's Wave of the Future!
Article Source »
State Rep. Barry Mask, left, R-Wetumpka, and Wetumpka Mayor Jerry Willis, right, talk with Ryan Zimmerman, an Auburn University architecture student, about his Impact Crater Science Center design proposal Tuesday at the Wetumpka Administration Building. / AMANDA SOWARDS/ADVERTISER
WETUMPKA -- Elmore County has the vision, if not the money, for an Impact Crater Science Center, and Auburn University students are helping area leaders visualize the finished product.
The Auburn architecture students took on the proposed science center as a design project in spring of last year, and the winning designs were presented Tuesday.
The impact crater near Wetumpka was formed about 85 million years ago when a meteor slammed into what was then a shallow ocean, releasing energy equal to 2.3 billion tons of TNT.
The center would be built on the rim of the crater, which is four miles in diameter.
Area leaders including state Rep. Barry Mask, R-Wetumpka, said they would like to see the Impact Crater Science Center become part of an "Alabama Science Trial" that would include the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Birmingham's McWane Science Center and the Dauphin Island Sea Lab.
Auburn student Ryan Zimmerman won first place for his model of a center that would lead visitors down through a dark corridor, out into an open space to create a dramatic effect and down farther to the main exhibit area.
The approximately 15,000-square-foot center would be visible from U.S. 231, he said.
"People would be captivated by it and would have to stop," Zimmerman said.
So far, however, there is no money to build it, and Wetumpka Mayor Jerry Willis conceded that it won't be easy to find the money for the project, which he estimated will cost about $15 million.
"We know it is going to take a lot of hard work," Willis said, adding that leaders are looking into possible federal funding and other sources.
Willis and others believe the science center would be a big draw with significant economic impact, bringing in tourists and students from all over.
One study puts the potential economic impact at $1.2 million a year, according to the Elmore County Economic Development Authority.
The Alabama Department of Transportation donated a 25-acre site for the Impact Crater Science Center to the city of Wetumpka. The site is currently the location of a rest area.
Impact Crater Commission Vice Chairman Clark Dorsey said having designs for a proposed center for the crater is an exciting step forward.
The Crater Commission was created to physically preserve the crater itself, an effort that Dorsey said has been slow to progress because so much of it is private property.
"This interpretive center is more than I ever hoped for," Dorsey said.
© 2013 Elmore County Economic Development Authority. All Rights Reserved.