Some question Sci-Port's long term future

Outlook for Sci-Port depends on who you ask

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Expectations about the future of Sci-Port all depend on who you ask. To some, it is a Phoenix rising from the ashes.

But to others, Sci-Port is a struggling non-profit potentially on its last gasp, before it closes for good.

The question becomes which vision will win out?

Seven months after the planned, temporary closure of the Sci-Port Discovery Center in downtown Shreveport for renovations, this weekend the center will reopen its IMAX theater.

It's the latest part of Sci-Port to reopen as the entire children's' facility has slowly begun to reopen in phases. But it comes as serious questions are being asked about its long-term viability.

Just one day before the reopening of its IMAX domed theater to members on Friday and to the public over the weekend, Sci-Port's former finance manager Mike Sledge told KSLA News 12 what he called the hard truth about the center.

In his opinion, there's just not enough people in this area to fully support either Sci-Port, a planetarium or an IMAX theater at this complex in downtown Shreveport.

"First off, I can see no way forward short of some donors coming up with a couple of million dollars," said Sledge, when reached by phone. He's also worried about the center's huge debt load.

Sledge's assessment comes just days after Sci-Port's current Board Chairman, Rich Lamb, insisted his organization did not inquire about a $2 million loan at a private February gathering.

But that's exactly what happened according to Caddo Commissioner Steven Jackson, who was at that meeting.

"But it still doesn't address the systemic problem of the business model, of an operation like that with worn out exhibits and too big a space," added Sledge.

He said Sci-Port is a classic case of economic Darwinism in which you either adapt to the changing times or die.

"They didn't adapt and they died and any money put into it is, in my opinion, basically throwing good money after bad."

But Chris Jay with the Shreveport-Bossier Convention & Tourist Bureau urges the public to support Sci-Port to help it survive.

"It's easier to do that and it's more rewarding to do that than it is to prognosticate about when it's going to have its demise," said Jay.

As an example, Jay cited the success of the Robinson Film Center in downtown Shreveport, where he used to work.

He said many predicted the theater would never survive.

"And they're going to be celebrating their 10th anniversary in May," said Jay.

Sledge concluded that unless something dramatic happens to change the numbers then keeping the discovery center open, even on a limited basis, only prolongs the inevitable - once creditors come calling.

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