LAS CRUCES - The main parking lot entrance to Las Cruces City Hall will be blocked for up to six months by a full-sized Virgin Galactic spaceship replica.
The city has worked out an agreement with the company to borrow the replica of SpaceShipTwo — the ship that's expected to carry passengers to suborbital space from Spaceport America — in time for the first Las Cruces Space Festival, which takes place April 12-14.
Installation of the replica — which for years has been on display in the Spaceport America hangar — will start Wednesday morning and continue Thursday near city hall, 700 N. Main St., according to city officials.
"I think it was a mutually agreeable opportunity with the festival (approaching) and Virgin Galactic's recent developments," said City Manager Stuart Ed. "We felt it was a great opportunity."
Festival events are taking place throughout the city starting Thursday, April 12.
Ed said the parking lot entrance was chosen because the size and weight of the spaceship replica may have caused damage elsewhere in the downtown area. And installing it in a city park or on turf would have required pouring concrete pads, which he didn't want done for a temporary display. Plus, city hall is a high-visibility area near city hall and located downtown, he said.
"We were very limited on where we could have the display," he said.
The replica will be in the vicinity of two well-known lion sculptures that sit on either side of city hall's west parking lot entrance. Tuesday afternoon, metal gates could be seen at the site, in preparation for the blocking off of the entrance. However, traffic was still using the entrance.
To access the parking lot in front of city hall, officials are now directing traffic to the Thomas Branigan Memorial Library entrance off Picacho Avenue. Ed said he didn't believe that would cause congestion problems or emergency access issues.
"It's just a temporary closure," he said. "There's still easy access to both Branigan library and city hall."
There's also a parking lot on the east side of city hall.
Las Crucen Hector Amado, 17, parked his car at city hall Tuesday before walking to the downtown area to play Pokémon with friends. He said he liked the idea of the replica being installed. While it's an inconvenience to drivers, he said he could find another place to park downtown the next few weeks.
"It's going to cause a little bit more traffic, but it happens," he said.
Ed said the decision to install the spaceship replica wasn't voted upon by city councilors, but rather was in his own purview.
"This was not really a policy decision since it really didn't involve an investment of resources," he said. "It was a free display, and it was a temporary display."
However, Ed said he did update city councilors on "what was developing when it was developing and gave them the courtesy of keeping them informed."
Ed said he's optimistic the city can work out an agreement with Virgin Galactic for a more permanent display of the spaceship replica somewhere in the city.
Spaceport America is a state-owned launch site for space vehicles in southeastern Sierra County. A portion of Doña Ana County taxpayers' sales tax helps pay off debt used to build the facility. Virgin Galatic is the spaceport's main tenant.
Quelle: Las Cruces Sun News