For Hometown News
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex has unveiled the first phase of improvements designed to dramatically enhance the guest experience.
The $16 million enhancements are part of a 10-year master plan developed by the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex concessioner, Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts, in partnership with NASA's Kennedy Space Center.
The new entry includes a grand plaza and fountain, ticket stations and self-service kiosks, will call, guest services and information stations, a retail shop and a restaurant.
The new entrance draws guests from the parking lot into a grand entry plaza, where they are greeted by a brand new, first-ever 3D representation of the NASA insignia that spans 13 feet in diameter.
To the right of the globe stands a majestic 75-foot-long fountain that pays homage to the dreams of late President John F. Kennedy, for whom NASA's Kennedy Space Center is named.
Kennedy's face, along with a quote from his famous 1962 "moon speech" at Rice University, are laser-etched onto a skyward-reaching arch of blue granite that stands 30 feet at its highest point. The inscription reads, "For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond..."
The 5,000-gallon fountain is spectacularly lit in the evenings with LED lights and features 26 jets of water that can be programmed to create inspiring light shows for guests, as they exit the park or during evening special events or exhibitions.
More efficient ticketing
Purchasing admission tickets now promises to be a quicker, more efficient process for guests, thanks to a complete redesign of the ticket stations. Two separate stations feature six ticket windows each and now offer a "fair cueing" system to direct the next guest in line to the next available window.
Digital screens within each station's covered cue provide descriptions of tour options and prices to help guests make informed choices.
Those who wish to bypass the regular ticket lines may purchase directly from one of six self-service ticket kiosks, and guests who have purchased tickets in advance may proceed directly to a dedicated new "will call" station.
The ticket areas were designed to inspire and excite guests about the journey that awaits them, and are covered in brilliantly colored tiles to depict selected planets, including Earth and Jupiter.
Voyagers retail shop
Farther along the plaza, a brand new 2,500-square-foot Voyagers retail shop invites guests to make a last-minute purchase before heading to their vehicle and allows those who wish only to shop to do so without purchasing an admission ticket.
Inspiration is the theme in Voyagers, where bold graphics depict the progress of the American space program since the 1950s and challenge guests to "Dream Bigger." Above the checkout area, an 18-foot in diameter glass light fixture, modeled after Mars, offers an artistic interpretation of the "red planet."
Rocket garden and guest services
Beyond the ticket plaza, guests' excitement and anticipation builds, as they pass through a covered archway where they are boldly invited in 6-foot-tall, blue letters to "EXPLORE."
In the near distance, views of towering rockets in the Rocket Garden, representing early space exploration, beckon guests to get an up-close look at these sleek, yet incredibly powerful, vehicles.
Following the new outdoor security checkpoint and turnstiles, visitors may stop in at the new guest services area to the right of the plaza to pick up audio guides in English and six other languages, purchase additional tours or upgrade to an annual pass.
Wheelchairs and strollers are available at a new information counter, located near the existing exhibit, Early Space Exploration.
'Crawler rock' exhibited
As guests continue their way into the park, they may notice two cobbled or slightly bumpy strips running on either side of the paved walkway. This symbolic pathway is made of authentic "crawler rock"-- the very same Tennessee river rock that lines Kennedy Space Center's crawler way to support the massive weight of NASA's nearly 3,000-ton crawler-transporter, the behemoth vehicle used to carry launch vehicles, such as Apollo/Saturn V rockets and space shuttles from the Vehicle Assembly Building to the launch pads.
The walkway marks the beginning of the "Vapor Trail," a path named for the plume of steam that follows a rocket upon ascent. The Vapor Trail will be extended in further phases of development to provide visitors with a more deliberate path to guide them through the park's main attractions.
New outdoor cafe
The first stage of enhancements also includes the new outdoor Rocket Garden Café, which was designed in the retro style of the 1950s and 1960s as a nod to the early days of space exploration -- the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs.
Bright green and chartreuse tiles evoke a "garden" feel amidst the rockets of polished steel, while covered outdoor seating provides protection from the elements, along with an uninterrupted view of the surrounding landscape.
An all-new menu appeals to global tastes with diverse items such as conch fritters, Asian chicken salad with honey lime vinaigrette, chicken empanadas or beef croquettes with spicy tomato sauce and Mediterranean flatbread pizza. Even staples such as french fries take on a more sophisticated air in the seasoned fries, with chorizo and blue cheese.
The next stage
The next stage of the Visitor Complex's 10-year master plan includes the opening of a $100 million, 90,000-square foot exhibit to showcase space shuttle Atlantis and celebrate the 30-year space shuttle program as a stepping stone to future space endeavors. The opening is slated for July 2013.
Limited time, behind-the-scenes opportunities
Visitors can get rare behind-the-scenes access to areas of Kennedy Space Center that have been off limits to the public for decades.
The KSC Up-Close Tour Series includes tours of the Vehicle Assembly Building, Launch Control Center and Launch Pad. The VAB tour has been extended through 2013 and the LCC and Launch Pad tours are confirmed through March 31.
Open to the public for the first time in more than 30 years, the VAB Tour provides visitors a look inside the 525-foot-tall structure - one of the largest buildings in the world - where the Apollo rockets and space shuttles were assembled.
The Launch Control Center Tour allows guests inside the Firing Room, where NASA directors and engineers supervised all of the launches for the space shuttle and Apollo programs.
For the first time in the 50-year history of Kennedy Space Center, the Launch Pad Tour takes visitors to one of the launch pads from which the space shuttles and Saturn V moon rockets were launched.
Kennedy Space Center hours and admissions
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex opens daily at 9 a.m. Closing times vary by season.
Admission includes the Kennedy Space Center Tour, featuring an actual Saturn V moon rocket, Shuttle Launch Experience, 3D IMAX space films, Astronaut Encounter, Exploration Space: Explorers Wanted and all exhibits.
Admission also includes the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, featuring historic spacecraft and the world's largest collection of personal astronaut memorabilia opens daily at noon and closing times vary by season.
Admission is $50, plus tax, for adults and $40, plus tax, for children, ages 3-11.
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex Commander's Club Annual Pass is $63, plus tax, for adults and $53, plus tax, for children, ages 3-11.
For more information, call (877) 313-2610 or visit www.KennedySpaceCenter.com.