january 20, 2016

Scottsdale approves continued evaluation of Desert Discovery Center concept

The Scottsdale City Council Jan. 11 approved creating a business plan and feasibility analysis for the Desert Discovery Center concept, long envisioned as a place for people to learn about the Sonoran Desert at the Gateway Trailhead to Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

The Council awarded the contract to Desert Discovery Center Scottsdale, Inc., a private group formed to advance the idea. Over the next 18 months, they will engage the citizens of Scottsdale and others to create a comprehensive concept analysis and business plan. Although budgeted in this approval, an architect will be selected through a separate action to create conceptual site and floor plans, and preliminary building designs.

The result will be estimated costs to build, maintain and operate the proposed center, which will help the City Council make future decisions about whether to proceed any further.

“I’m glad that we were able to move study of the concept forward using tourism bed tax dollars and not the city’s general funds,” said Mayor W.J. “Jim” Lane.

“The commitment from the DDCS to participate in capital fundraising and develop a plan to adequately cover annual operating costs was a necessary step and I look forward to reviewing and discussing the plans and concepts triggered by this approval.”

Nearly $1.7 million in bed tax dollars – money paid by visitors who rent rooms at Scottsdale’s resorts and hotels – was approved for this planning process. Bed tax dollars can only be spent on projects that support tourism in Scottsdale.

According to DDCS, the center would be “… a one of a kind institution focused on the challenges of and opportunities for desert adaptation and sustainability, using the adjacent Preserve as a living laboratory and educational asset.” They describe the center as “an interpretive center for residents and visitors and an important attraction for our tourism industry.”

In addition to creating a business plan and feasibility analysis, the City Council also approved beginning the process to consider amending the city site plan at the Gateway Trailhead, which would be necessary if the Desert Discovery Center is built there. Learn more about the Desert Discovery Center concept at ScottsdaleAZ.gov, search “desert discovery center.”