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Preliminary Feasibility Study

Needs Assessment

City of Page Economic Development Needs - The City of Page has had a long time vision to expand the local economic base in order to reduce the community's dependency on warm water recreational activities.   Recently, the City of Page participated in a state-wide program that resulted in the creation of a Strategic Plan for Economic and Community development.  One on the broad themes in this plan is the importance and encouragement of collaborated efforts with regional entities.  The Strategic Plan outlines a broad new vision for Page and encourages creative ideas to help Page transition as the New Economy unfolds. 

The State of Arizona in the past year created an Arizona Partnership for the New Economy in which communities such as Page are challenged to rethink the role that their community can play regionally, to consider the experiences of other communities, to assess their unique local situations and to plot their future economic course and strategy appropriately.

The Page Paleontological Science Center (if properly developed) could become an important component to the local Page economy with many spin-off benefits working on different levels.  The Center has the potential to become a regional attraction and accelerate the process of turning Page into a true destination.  It would give visitors a reason to come to Page year round and explore the wonders of the Colorado Plateau and if packaged with other cultural opportunities and off-season lodging discounts, the Science Center could provide a much needed economic stimulus in the off season.

Tourist Needs - Tourists increasingly seek educational travel opportunities and adventure experiences.  This trend is expected to continue at a rapid rate with high numbers of well-educated, well-financed baby boomers moving about the country in seek of travel adventures.  At the same time, technological advances have created new forms of entertainment and have raised the expectations of the young and old alike.  Travelers today (and the general public as a whole) expect more and more to be dazzled and entertainment with their leisure dollars.

The Page Paleontological Science Center would offer an unique blend of high-quality educational experiences punctuated with thought-provoking themes, visually stunning displays, interactive exhibits packages with high technology entertainment experiences in a venue that will thoroughly engross and captivate the visiting audience.

Visitors would also have the opportunity to attend educational lectures on specialized topics where they could interact with  field specialists.   Opportunities would also exist for paid participation in field activities.   Travelling exhibits and updated exhibits highlighting current field research activities would serve to keep the Science Center fresh and current and encourage repeat visitation.

Needs of the General Public - It is a sad but true statement that accurate scientific interpretation on many scientific issues have a hard time reaching the general public.  Newspaper and media accounts more often than not contain scientific inaccuracies and the reporting tends to over-sensationalize certain aspects of discovery while neglecting many others of equally important scientific value.  The need to improve scientific interpretation for the general public has been recognized and the National Science Foundation has begun moving more funds toward interpretative projects however, there is still a very slow exchange of information from scientific experts to the general public.  This is somewhat ironic since most research is public-funded, yet the flow of information does not always arrive back to the public in a prompt and consumable manner.   Interpretation is a two way street that usually benefits both the lay person and the scientist alike and one of the goals of the Page Paleontological Science Center is to encourage these exchange opportunities.

Paleontology Research Needs - The field of paleontology is wholly under-funded.  Field excavations are time consuming both in the field and the laboratory and there are not nearly enough paleontological professionals to adequately investigate and address new finds reported in the field.  Funding from National Science Foundation grants has become increasingly difficult and competitive.  Fully 70% of grant applications are now rejected for lack of funds.  University research dollars are in great competition.  It is anticipated that proceeds from the Page Paleontological Science Center would put into a paleontological foundation to help fund field research with collaborating institutions, to encourage public participation and to support interpretative efforts.

Local Educational Needs - The Page Paleontological Science Center would provide an excellent opportunity to improve and support the quality of scientific education in rural school districts.  The Science Center would likely play an important role in fostering an awareness of the Earth Science and engaging the students in the scientific thought process.   A goal of the Science Center would be to increase the number of students pursuing science-related degrees at regional colleges and universities and especially to increase the percentage of native American enrollment which is at the ethnic-group bottom in the pursuit of science-related degrees.  Interest in the Science Center would also very likely increase enrollment at Coconino Community College.  In fact, there is the potential that CCC could become (if they choose) a college specializing in paleontology and other environmental earth sciences.

Marketing Assessment

Visitation to Grand Canyon - Visitation has remained closed to 5 million annual visitors at the Grand Canyon even in the face of increased entrance fees and higher gasoline prices.   Visitation in the year 2000 held steady at 4.9 million the same as 1999.

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Visitation to Glen Canyon Recreational Area - 2.6 million people visited the Glen Canyon National Recreational area in 1999. 

Visitation to Carl Hayden Visitor Center - Visitation at the Carl Hayden Visitor Center was just short of 1 million (916,000 for the year 1999).  A breakdown by month shows that visitation was highest in August and lowest in January.  

Jan -   14,000       Feb -   16,000        Mar -   46,000
Apr-   62,000      May - 110,000        Jun -  124,000
Jul -  142,000      Aug -  146,000       Sep -  140,000
Oct -  75,000      Nov -    26,000       Dec -    15,000   

Retail sale from book sales at the GCNHA outlets was just short of $500,000 in the year 2000.  The retail floor space at the Carl Hayden Visitor Center is very limited and the inventory offerings are very restricted and in many cases the same products are available locally and at many other regional tourist centers.  

IMAX Visitation at the Grand Canyon - The IMAX theater at Tusayan has drawn over 31 million visitors in just 16 years.  Visitors pay $10 to watch a 35 minute film.  Annual visitation at the Grand Canyon runs just short of 5 million people per year.  This means that about 40% of the visitors to the Grand Canyon have visited the IMAX theater.

Expected visitation at the Page Paleontological Science Center - 20% of the visitors to the Glen Canyon Recreational Area.  2.5 million x 0.2 = 500,000 visitors per year.   This is a conservative estimate since visitation to the Carl Hayden Visitor Center represents about 35% of the total visitor traffic.

Strategic Location is Important - Siting the Science Center along Highway 89 is critical to the success of the Science Center.  Visitation to the IMAX theater runs as high as 40% and visitation to the Carl Hayden Visitor Center was 35% in recent years.   Visitation rates this high are directly attributable to the attraction's highway location, the fact that visitor arrives at their destination after a long journey and that there are no or little competitive attractions.   Highway visibility is very important factor in stopping visitor movement.  Museums that are off the beaten path are at a very distinct marketing disadvantage that are difficult to overcome.

Funding Opportunities

City of Page - 5 acres highway frontage (donated or lease agreement) - The City of Page has several 5 acre parcels of highway 98 frontage along the Golf Course and in the general area near the NPS Headquarters building.  At one time, the City of Page considered donating acreage to ADOT for a rest area along this stretch of the highway.  Alternatively, the City might be willing to lease the acreage.  The Page Paleontological Science Center would benefit the City of Page in many ways.  Sales tax would be paid on an estimated annual revenue of $2.5 million dollars. 

Grants for Rural Area Economic Development

Grants for New Economy Economic Development

Grants for Scientific Interpretation

Grants for using native American artwork in interpretative displays

Grants for educational collaborations

Corporate sponsorship

Private donations

Donated labor and scholarly expertise

Co-funding and/or collaboration with other institutions.

Work with the Smithsonian Institute is looking for cooperating facilities out West who might want
to host some of their paleontological specimens in exchange for using the facility to stage paleontological
field research.

Revenue Streams

Admission into Museum - $3 per adult, $1 per child.  Expected annual visitation of 500,000 = $1,000,000 per year in admission fares.

Motion Simulation Rides - $5 per person.  Expected annual 400 per day summer, 100 per day winter.  Annual # of rides = 90,000 @ $5 per ride = $450,000 per year in admission fares

These numbers for visitation are very conservative.  The IMAX theater at Tusayan has drawn over 31 million visitors in just 16 years where visitors pay $10 to watch a 35 minute film.  The annual visitation at the Grand Canyon runs just short of 5 million people per year.   This means that about 40% of the visitors to the Grand Canyon have visited the IMAX theater.

Gift Shop Retail Sales - A conservative estimate is $2 per person or $1,000,000 per year based on 500,000 visitors.  These numbers are conservative because book sales reported by Glen Canyon Natural History Association run close to $500,000 per year and these sales come from outlets which suffer from extremely limited amount of retail space and a very restricted inventory selection which very often competes with the very same offerings available at other tourist retail outlets both locally and regionally. 

Revenues from the Page Paleontological Science Center Gift Shop could be substantial in light of the fact that more retail space would be available and many more unique creative and imaginative products would be available. Product sales would also be enhanced as the Science Center's interpretative exhibits could be expected to stimulate interest and curiosity in specialized areas that would carry over into retail purchases pertaining to that subject matter.

Membership fees - 250 members at $25 = $6,250

Office Space rental - It is possible that the Glen Canyon Natural History Association would relocate it's office space to the Science Center @ $300/month = $3,600 per year.

Outdoor field experiences - 100 people @ $500 = $50,000

Private donations and grants - Unknown but can be significant.

Summary of Potential Revenues
Annual Gross (conservative):

Science Center                                     $1,000,000
Motion Simulation Rides                           450,000
Gift Shop Retail                                       1,000,000
Office Space rental                                         3,600
Membership/Field Trips                               56,250
Total Annual Gross Revenue           $2,509,850
(does not including private donations)


Marketing Considerations

The average consumer is more entertainment-savvy these days, and traditional offerings may no longer be enough.  Many older museums rely too much on static, unimaginative displays that do little to actively engage the visitor.   Today's consumers expect to be entertained, dazzled and educated.  High-tech strategies are the way to do it.  The Page Paleontological Science Center would embrace the concept of combining interpretative education with entertainment.  

Software-driven attractions allow operators to create marketable new experiences without incurring the huge costs associated with "hard rides" such as rollercoasters,etc.  The key is to plan an entertainment offering that can be kept fresh and easily re-themed to to attract repeat visitation.

A growing trend across the USA and around the world is to group traditional leisure activities like restaurants, shops, and movie theatres, with ride simulation and other high-tech attractions that serve as key entertainment draws.

The Science Center is perfectly situated to take advantage of the off season market.   Field trips, hiking and other strenuous outdoor experiences are more suited to off the season and these along with the general Science Center experienced could be packaged and marketed with low-priced lodging accommodations and other cultural events such as the Native American living museum and bird watching (condors and waterfowl on the Colorado River).  Increased tourist traffic in the off season has long been an economic development goal of the City of Page and the Chamber of Commerce.

Construction Considerations

The vision is to construct a 15,000 square-foot facility that would house:

The size of the facility is kept manageable since (unlike many other paleontological and archeological facilities) that is no need for a large specimen laboratory and storage area which can consume a very significant amount of space resources.  The Page Paleontological Science Center would have a small laboratory to serve for specimen preparation and classroom instruction but Science Center would operate in collaboration with other institutions where the bulk of the specimens would be cleaned, analyzed and stored.

Motion Simulation Ride Hardware

The IWERKS 8-Seat Electric Motion Base features an emerging high-tech design and ergonomically designed seating. 4D special effects like wind, sound, and lightning integrated into the seat design make this motion base truly state of the art. This state-of-the-art 6-axis motion base fits more people into a smaller footprint than ever before - making IWERKS the choice in a whole new dimension of 2D, 3D and 4D family entertainment.

Available in 8 seat to over 100 seat theater configurations. Under 1,000 sq. ft. required for 8-seat theater including ticketing and pre-show areas!

The motion base has minimal facility impact and requires no hydraulic plumbing - it can be powered with only 120 volts.

Capacity ranges from 160 to 240 people per hour.