Educational facility to close today

Organization leaving after 13 years

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Items are on sale at Fort Discovery in Augusta, Ga. on Thursday. After 13 years, the National Science Center's Fort Discovery will close its doors.  Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Items are on sale at Fort Discovery in Augusta, Ga. on Thursday. After 13 years, the National Science Center's Fort Discovery will close its doors.

The sign in Fort Discovery's science store Thursday said it all: "Everything Must Go."

And go it did.

As visitors snapped up everything from plasma balls to plastic dinosaurs --- all 70 percent off --- staffers at the National Science Center's signature attraction prepared to close its doors today for the last time.

"We've had our share of hugs and tears over this," said Rob Dennis, the science center's chief executive officer. "Change is difficult for everybody."

The organization, which opened Fort Discovery in April 1997, announced a restructuring plan in October that includes moving to a new headquarters in Washington, D.C., and closing Fort Discovery.

The pending move, Dennis said, offers the nonprofit organization and its partner, the Army, a chance to refocus on its core mission to increase the math and science proficiency of U.S. students.

"We're working with industry partners to have office space in Washington, as well as our Army partner, to make sure we have the resources we need up there," he said.

The closure of Fort Discovery leaves in limbo the fate of nearly 250 exhibits at the 130,000-square-foot science and technology center.

"The lion's share, about 80 percent, are owned by the state of Georgia," Dennis said. "What will happen to them is under negotiation right now. We mainly want to make sure we find an appropriate place for everything. We are simply the custodians."

Some exhibits already have new homes, including one on nuclear science that was moved to the Ruth Patrick Science Center in Aiken.

Fort Discovery's shutdown means that most of its remaining employees will be let go.

"Over the years, we've had a high of about 40 employees," he said. "We're now down to 17, most of whom are part-timers."

On Thursday, steady crowds of visitors fanned out among exhibits that offer youngsters insight into fiber-optics, X-rays, gravity, motion and other fields. The hourly lightning show and the echo tube were as popular as ever. So was the gift shop.

"Believe it or not, we've sold down a lot of stuff already," said the store manager, Jeanette Nelson. "The bigger items, telescopes and binoculars, went quick. But we still have a lot of things left."

Today's hours of operation will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., after which the attraction will close for good.

"There will still be things going on in the building, but that will be the final day for the visitors," Dennis said, adding that negotiations remain under way to sell the site for redevelopment by a new owner.

Potential buyers have emerged in recent months, he said, but he could not identify the parties involved.

"I do think we'll go to closing in the first quarter of the year, based on how things look right now," he said. "It looks very promising."

If you go

TODAY: Fort Discovery's last day of operation. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

THE IMPACT: The closing of Fort Discovery means the remaining handful of employees lose their jobs. The fate of the 250 exhibits is largely unknown.

Read more about Fort Discovery's history at augustachronicle.com/225.

Comments (17) Add comment
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bettyboop
7
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bettyboop 12/31/10 - 05:43 am
0
0
damn shame...the leaders of

damn shame...the leaders of disgusta should hang their worthless heads.

USNAVYVET
0
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USNAVYVET 12/31/10 - 09:10 am
0
0
If the Fort Discovery was

If the Fort Discovery was partnered by the US ARMY, will Fort Gordon, Veteran's Hospital's uptown and Downtown locations leave as well? It was my understanding that the Fort Discovery was to help our kids learn, maybe they shouldn't have charged such exorbitant fee's, then maybe more could have attended. Will it happen in Washington DC as well?

G
0
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G 12/31/10 - 09:56 am
0
0
It is really a shame to see

It is really a shame to see this facility go. I guess as usual it was a lack of public support.

GOSHEN77
0
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GOSHEN77 12/31/10 - 10:09 am
0
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People is the CSRA are just

People is the CSRA are just to poor to afford the tickets.

irishfarmer
24
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irishfarmer 12/31/10 - 10:26 am
0
0
Alot of Georgia State

Alot of Georgia State taxpayer money is flushed down the drain now because of this failure we call Fort Discovery. It just prooves that a good idea or theory just sometimes does not work. But we can thank State Senator Hardie Davis for this (I have heard that he was such a driving force for Fort Discovery to open and to get the help from the state). How much of Augusta's taxpaying funds will you throw away in again in2011 at good ideas that will not get public support?

It is a shame that Fort Discovery is colsing it could have been something special and if it could have just hung on i little longer until some economic development hit the downtown area and riverwalk. Oh thats right elected officials like Hardie davis do not think of that. Nor do the Bill Lockett's or the Alvin Mason's or The boy king Mayor Deke's. It is sad but it is Augusta! Like it or not this is what we are stuck with as long as we elect people to represent us in Washington DC, Atlanta and on Greene St. that do not care or even understand what Augusta really needs for it's future to get stronger and brighter.

bclicious
668
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bclicious 12/31/10 - 10:49 am
0
0
Sign of the times folks!

Sign of the times folks! Expect more of this to come.

blakkone
72
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blakkone 12/31/10 - 11:58 am
0
0
So where will the BEST OF

So where will the BEST OF AUGUSTA annual event be held now??? I really enjoyed the event!

Cadence
219
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Cadence 12/31/10 - 11:59 am
0
0
Fort D is an amazing place to

Fort D is an amazing place to learn about science while having a great time. Losing it is a huge loss to the community and will only contribute to the ignorance that makes us weak. I guess next we lose the museum and the art galleries? Then we can just sit home and watch garbage on tv. Sorry, I'm just upset about this. We could be a city of excellence if we had decent leadership and more citizens who gave a d**m.

blakkone
72
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blakkone 12/31/10 - 02:32 pm
0
0
Wow CADENCE...a little

Wow CADENCE...a little bitter, arent we??

Fort D didnt have return or repeat value. That means that once a customer pays admission and tours the entire facility and sees/does everything Fort D has to offer, how likely are they to return to do it all over again?? Not very. Combine that with an average size city like AUG and the fact that not everybody is into science (I hated science in grade school and college) equals closing in about 10 years.

I kinda saw it coming. I mostly feel for the people losing their jobs. But thats life i guess...

Dixieman
14164
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Dixieman 12/31/10 - 04:13 pm
0
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I went there over 100 times

I went there over 100 times with my daughter since she was 2, including one last sad visit today (she is 11). It was so sad to say goodbye to FD and I wish Augusta could have done more to keep it here....

raul
4501
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raul 12/31/10 - 04:23 pm
0
0
Never was impressed with it.

Never was impressed with it. Exhibits were broken half the time. No major loss.

Riverman1
81927
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Riverman1 12/31/10 - 04:48 pm
0
0
Georgia Golf Hall of Fame is

Georgia Golf Hall of Fame is gone. Ft. Discovery is gone. The TEE will have no chance of drawing shows and conventions.

John Locke
295
Points
John Locke 12/31/10 - 08:12 pm
0
0
Part of the reason the Fort D

Part of the reason the Fort D closed was they didn't raise the admission cost, it was only $8.00 a person and there were discounts for military and others. The place was running in the red and that's why they needed support from Georgia and other donors. I know this because I had relatives that worked there. The Army piece is separate and not the public science part everyone thinks of. The Army piece is behind the scences and what they do, no one really knows because those jobs would be threatened if the true story came out. The piece that needed to close was the Army piece, not the public / tourist venue. Anyway, its done, just close Augusta its a lost cause.

rosiet
0
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rosiet 12/31/10 - 08:31 pm
0
0
I was an employee there for

I was an employee there for many years... they are closing because of management. Bottom line. Simple. Yet mangement still will have a job.

bclicious
668
Points
bclicious 01/01/11 - 12:05 am
0
0
How can management still have

How can management still have a job if the place is closing? That doesn't make any sense. Where would their paycheck come from?

shamrock
462
Points
shamrock 01/01/11 - 01:58 am
0
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I agree management of Fort

I agree management of Fort Discovery was a PART of the problem, but like many good things that have closed in downtown Augusta ... it is the apathy of the community, the lack of governmental leadership ... or (more likely) both.

iLove
626
Points
iLove 01/01/11 - 09:12 am
0
0
The science exhibits NEVER
Unpublished

The science exhibits NEVER changed in 13 years. . . . .think that had something to do with the closing???

John Locke
295
Points
John Locke 01/02/11 - 06:48 pm
0
0
The director, Rob Dennis,

The director, Rob Dennis, still has a job. He's going to Washington I guess, but, there is still enough money to pay him.

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