INFINITY Breaks Ground in Hancock County

Hancock County, MS — Years of hard work, funding from the state of Mississippi and NASA, and donations from patrons across the country produced visible results on Thursday, November 20, 2008, with the official groundbreaking for the highly-anticipated INFINITY® science and education center, located just outside NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, Mississippi.

INFINITY® at NASA Stennis Space Center is a $38 million, state-of-the-art science and education center that, when open in 2010, will provide not only a major tourist attraction, but will also be the region’s first interactive science center.

The project is spearheaded by INFINITY Science Center, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, in partnership with NASA, the State of Mississippi and a host of private sector donors. INFINITY® is being built on more than 200 acres just west of the Mississippi Welcome Center at Exit 2 on Interstate 10. The location is just south of the entrance to Stennis Space Center and will also serve as the official Stennis Welcome Center.

The Mississippi Department of Transportation, another partner, will be constructing a road to INFINITY®, making it easily accessible from I-10 and from the Mississippi Welcome Center.

Construction of the $28 million building will begin within months and is expected to be open in the fall of 2010. The unique building, designed by Stantec Architecture and Studio South, will house more than $10 million is exhibits, interactive galleries, theatres, a gift shop and cafeteria.

“At a time when our nation faces a critical need for scientists, engineers and technicians, INFINITY® is designed to spark an interest in thousands of students of all ages,” explained Apollo 13 astronaut and INFINITY board member Fred Haise.

“This day feels a lot like a launch day; we’ve been counting down to this event for several years, and now we are finally here,” Haise said. “The journey to build INFINITY® will be a bit longer than a typical space mission; but when we are done, it may be this place that helps ensure that we have young people inspired and willing to take on the next big challenges in science and technology.”

The project is still $4 million short of its $28 million goal to pay for the building, but the INFINITY board decided now was the right time to begin construction, and they expressed confidence that the full construction cost would be raised before completion.

The fundraising effort got a boost when the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians announced a $125,000 contribution at the groundbreaking ceremony, joining a growing list of corporate and organizational donors.

Hancock Bank president George Schloegel spoke at the groundbreaking to praise the financial support of corporate donors and praised the contributions of Hancock Bank Chairman Emeritus Leo Seal, Jr, who passed away just two days before the groundbreaking. Seal was one of the founders of INFINITY and served as the board’s only chairman until his death. He was responsible for much of the funds raised.

“The cost of building such a unique facility is a big challenge but so are the rewards in terms of inspiration for our young people, continued economic development, and the chance to show the world how Mississippians and Louisianans are involved in cutting-edge exploration from the bottom of the oceans to the far reaches of space,” explained INFINITY® education program development director John Wilson.

On hand to witness the groundbreaking were several project principals, NASA representatives, donors, and elected officials from Mississippi and Louisiana.

INFINITY is Go! For Launch
L to R Mr. John Smith, Mr. Wayne Brown, Mr. Fred Haise, Mr. Gene Goldman, Mr. David Hardy, Mrs. Virginia Wagner, Mr. George Schloegel, The Honorable J. P. Compretta, Mr. Charlie Benn, The Honorable A. G. Crowe

Click image to view full-size

© Mississippi Enterprise for Technology // 1103 Balch Blvd Suite 143 // Stennis Space Center, MS 39529 // (228) 688-3144