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This $50 million Sacramento riverfront project nearly died, but work is finally underway

Powerhouse Science Center prepares to launch to new site

Sacramento’s Powerhouse Science Center prepares to move from its humble suburban home to historic site on Sacramento River.
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Sacramento’s Powerhouse Science Center prepares to move from its humble suburban home to historic site on Sacramento River.

It took the work of three mayors, several City Council members and some of the region's biggest funders. But after all these years, work is finally starting on the Powerhouse Science Center.

A ceremonial groundbreaking for the $50 million facility was held Thursday, a significant milestone in an effort that started more than a decade ago to transform an abandoned PG&E power station on the banks of the Sacramento River into a center of science, nature and technology.

"This will arouse the curiosity of a whole generation of young people," said Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento. "These are our next explorers."

The project went through various stages of financing, only to come together in recent months through large contributions from the city of Sacramento, a federal grant that backs education projects, fundraising by the museum's board and a $7 million naming rights deal by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District.

"This project, as many of you know, had many reports of death that were premature," Councilman Steve Hansen, a key project booster, told a crowd of more than 100 local elected officials and business leaders.

Mayor Darrell Steinberg said the science center would not only jump-start broader investment along the river, but also help Sacramento achieve its goal of becoming a biotechnology center.

"What makes a great city? It is a city that is committed to growth, that is committed to vision and is committed to becoming a destination," the mayor said. "To have this center on our riverfront is in fact going to be a job creator and a boon to our economy."

Once completed in 2020, the science center will encompass 22,000 square feet of exhibit space, a 120-seat digital planetarium and a revamped park.

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