Cosmosphere signs management agreement for proposed Overland Park satellite

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Creation of a Cosmosphere satellite in a proposed new Kansas City-area development continues forward, with several recent actions by officials of The Cosmosphere in Hutchinson and developer Price Brothers of Overland Park.

On Thursday, Cosmosphere officials signed a formal agreement to manage the Cosmosphere Innovation Space when it opens.

The 60,000-square-foot center will be within a larger 300-acre retail and housing development at 159th Street and U.S. 69, and will include space artifacts, replicas and interactive science exhibits.

Prior to this week's contract signing, the Cosmosphere and Price Brothers established a new 501©3 that will operate the proposed new facility.

A newly created board comprised of representatives of the Cosmosphere, Price Brothers and members from the area at large will form to have administrative oversight of the nonprofit.

Joe Ontjes of Hutchinson, a current member of the Cosmos-phere governing board, will be the initial president of the Cosmos-phere Innovation Space Board of Directors, according to a release from the Cosmosphere.

Other members from Hutchinson, said Cosmosphere President and COO Jim Remar, include himself as secretary, Cosmosphere CEO Dick Hollowell, and past board chair Rick Staub.

The board also will include four members from Price Brothers and five members at-large from the Overland Park community, Remar said.

"It's a separate 501©3 from the Cosmosphere," Remar said. "Because of that, it needed to be a separate board. Since the Cosmosphere is managing the facility and Price Brothers is backing the development, we wanted to make sure there was equal representation from both entities. We also felt it was necessary to have representation from the local public, as well."

While they have partially created the board, said Tracy Mandel McHugh, vice president of Price Brothers Manage-ment, the selection of members at large will likely occur closer to the center's opening.

The Innovation Center will have its own executive director and on-site management team, Remar said, which would report to the Cosmosphere.

"The Cosmosphere will ultimately have oversight for management," Remar said.

The project itself, however, is still waiting on approval by the city of Overland Park – and then the Kansas Department of Commerce – of Star Bonds to fund a major portion of the construction.

"The next step (on the bonds) is a meeting with the city," Remar said. "When the city ultimately signs off on it, then the state will approve the Star Bond funding."

Mandel McHugh said final consideration of the bonds by Overland Park city leaders "is a moving target."

"It's a difficult question to answer," she said. "We're in the beginning stages of working with the city on our application. We are finalizing details of the project with them right now. We don't have a firm deadline or timeline."

Once the city formally takes up the bonds, there is a 30-day public comment period and then a vote by the council whether to approve the bonds, Remar said.

The decision to sign a management agreement and form a new board at this point, she said, was to "solidify our partnership with the Cosmosphere, so we can move forward with vision. Certainly, we want to let the city know our plans for the development. It's part of the process."

"I think this is a great opportunity for the Cosmosphere to be able to expand its footprint, to get into a market we feel is important and hopefully create some additional tourism to Hutchinson and a flow of participants into our education programs in Hutchinson," Remar said. "We're going to do different exhibits, including some introductory exhibits that tell them about exhibits at the Cosmosphere. We'll also have some science and education, hands-on exhibits and lots of education programs up there that will feed into what we do in Hutchinson."