Peoria School District Saddled With $1.4M Cost To Retrofit Former Challenger Space Center

By Casey Kuhn
Published: Monday, April 9, 2018 - 9:47am
Updated: Monday, April 9, 2018 - 12:41pm

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Arizona Challenger Space Center
(Photo by Casey Kuhn - KJZZ)
The Arizona Challenger Space Center was designed with help from schoolchildren.

When the Challenger Space Center closed last summer, the Peoria Unified School District acquired the building specially designed for the space-age program. Now, that building has come at an unexpectedly high cost.

The building was held by Kevin Knight of Knight Transportation group. In a special deal, the building was given back to the Peoria school district in exchange for two pieces of district-owned land.

It was essentially a no-cost deal, and the building was going to hold a STEM program.

Now, after the tenants left, the estimated cost to retrofit the building is $1.4 million.

The former Space Center needs new wiring systems, air conditioning and parking lots. Board member Judy Doane said at a special board meeting in March the building is in worse shape than expected.

“And I’m not sure we’re getting our money for it," Doane said. "I think we made a bad arrangement because we were told there would not be any costs associated with improving the building, that the building was fine.”

At the meeting, board members questioned whether the district sent inspectors to assess the shape of the building. District leaders said they did when the building was in use, but after the tenants left, there were four dumpsters-worth of debris to remove from the building. 

Peoria district spokeswoman Danielle Airey says since the board decided not to put the STEM program in that building, leadership is looking for cheaper alternatives.

“We know we’re going to have to spend some money, it’s just about making sure that we’re being wise stewards of our taxpayers’ dollars and that we’re putting the program in there that’s the best fit.”

Airey said the STEM program originally meant to go in the building would have required new laboratories, too.

The building woes come after the governing board ousted the superintendent last year.

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