New Mexico Spaceport Authority Unveils Spaceport America Visitor Experience Plan

By John Lux

[fusion_dropcap class="fusion-content-tb-dropcap"]T[/fusion_dropcap]he New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) Board of Directors reviewed plans today to design, build and program the Spaceport America Visitor Experience. Plans also include two off-site Welcome Centers located in the Village of Hatch in Doña Ana County and in Truth or Consequences in Sierra County, plus an on-site Visitors Center and specially developed behind-the-scenes tours as well as the chance to visit the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space.

The Spaceport America Visitor Experience will be a professionally designed immersion into the excitement of the world’s first purpose-built, commercial spaceport. Guests will be invited to explore the history, adventure, potential and inspiration of the next space-age. Officials project attendance will grow to more than 200,000 visitors annually.

“The Spaceport Experience begins on-line long before a guest arrives at a Welcome Center” explained Bob Allen, IDEAS Chief Storytelling Officer. “There will be a robust virtual environment offering games, mobile apps and content so that especially our younger guests will already feel a part of the new space age by the time they come for a visit.” Kelly Pounds, IDEAS Vice President of Learning, noted that a lot of the content will have an educational focus. “We’ll have a special section for educators incorporating lesson plans, instructionally designed interactives as well as a way for teachers to establish a dialogue with the Spaceport for long-term collaboration.

“The Welcome Centers are the “mission briefing” areas where guests become part of the Spaceport crew, get updates on current activity, get their credentials and catch a shuttle,” said Allen. The shuttles, designed as traveling theaters are an integral part of the experience. Because Spaceport America is a part of a rich portfolio of regional tourism, the Welcome Centers will also feature a “regional trailhead” where guests can learn about and plan multi-day itineraries. Once guests arrive at Spaceport America, they enter the onsite Visitors Center, which will feature hands-on access to space technology and artifacts from recent launches, the opportunity to create a payload and manifest it for flight, interactive and simulation based experiences and a theater. From the Visitors Center, guests can take a guided in-depth shuttle tour of the entire spaceport finishing at the entrance to the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space where they will get a chance to see in depth into the exciting reality of the world’s first passenger spaceship fleet. Allen noted that, “we are designing a learning-enriched, hands-on immersion into what space is going to be about for the next twenty years. We want a relationship with our guests that lasts generations.”

Comprised of nine companies with rich experience in the design, development, operation and marketing of location-based entertainment, TEAM IDEAS was hired by NMSA to create a memorable visitor experience for Spaceport America, and to create a plan that will meet the needs of visitors and enhance regional tourism. The team evaluated six potential Welcome Center sites in Hatch and eight sites in Truth or Consequences using metrics and criteria developed in the destination hospitality industry before recommending a site in each community with proximity and easy access to I-25 to enhance guest wayfinding and brand visibility. Officials with NMSA and TEAM IDEAS emphasized a focus on the commercial success of the visitor experience as the best way to make a positive impact on local communities.

The NMSA Board of Directors indicated their support for the plan, with NMSA Chairman Rick Holdridge saying, “After reviewing the TEAM IDEAS recommendations and reconciling it with our budget and commitment to the two counties, we are confident that we have a winning solution fulfilling the promise of economic development, tourism and education.”

Next steps in the development process include the release of Requests for Proposals (RFP) targeting outside investment in Visitor Experience facilities from private developers, the development of a unified visual spaceport brand identity, and continued refinement of the plans as presented. The initial Spaceport America Visitor Experience is expected to reach operational capacity in 2013, about the time Virgin Galactic is hoping to be ready to begin their operations from Spaceport America. In the meantime, Spaceport America Preview Tours will provide visitors a taste of the project until the full Visitor Experience is ready.


IDEAS is an innovation studio using the power of story to provide creative, design and production services for entertainment, marketing and learning clients. IDEAS was created in 2001 in a management buyout from The Walt Disney Company and serves clients in enterprise and government worldwide. The company operates from its studio headquarters in downtown Orlando’s Creative Village.

Other team members include: Integrated Insight, Inc.; ORCA Consulting LLC; Cordova Marketing Group; Exline Design and Architecture; MYDesign, Inc.; and Blackhorse Worldwide. Team members from New Mexico include SMPC Architects and Larry Littlebird of Albuquerque NM,. The contract called for companies to create partnerships to provide a wide range of services to develop the spaceport’s Visitor Experience.

TEAM IDEAS members have provided a broad range of services in experience development for a list of clients that includes every major Walt Disney theme park & resort around the world, major Universal Studios theme parks, NASCAR, the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, the U.S. Capitol, the Statue of Liberty, the United States Air Force and the United States Navy. This caliber of relevant experience makes the team well-suited to develop the story, design, market analytics, operational strategy, and facilities of the Spaceport America Visitor Experience.

About Spaceport America

Spaceport America has been providing commercial launch services since 2006. Phase One of the construction for the spaceport was completed in early 2012. Phase Two of the construction and pre-operations activities will follow, including the development of a world-class Visitor Experience for students, tourists and space launch customers, the vertical launch complex improvements and the paving of the southern road to the spaceport. When Phase Two construction is completed in 2013, Spaceport America will become fully operational.

Officials at Spaceport America have been working closely with entrepreneurial space leaders like UP Aerospace, Virgin Galactic, and Armadillo Aerospace, as well as established aerospace firms like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and MOOG-FTS to develop commercial spaceflight at the new facility. The economic impact of launches, tourism and new construction at Spaceport America are already delivering on the promise of economic development to the people of New Mexico.

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February 7, 2012|News|

About the Author: John Lux

As COO of IDEAS, John manages the day-to-day operations of the company. He is a category expert in studio production and is responsible for bringing advanced digital media technology to IDEAS.

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