When Frank Florian looks through a telescope at the Telus World of Science, he can see solar flares and the rings of Saturn and the potential of space to awe.
But these days, the director of the planetarium and space sciences is looking closer to home, at the possibilities for the centre's new and expanded space.
Florian's worked at the centre for 30 years, almost since its beginning.
"I've seen change where we've added on little things, but this is much, much bigger and it's also a renovation of some of the spaces that are kind of dear to my heart, like the planetarium," Florian said.
The facility at 112th Avenue and 142nd Street, designed by architect Douglas Cardinal, opened July 1, 1984.
Facility will be transformed
Work has already started in the kitchen, but when it's done, the 32-year-old facility will be transformed, said Alan Nursall, president and CEO.
The plan, dubbed the Aurora Project, is a massive overhaul and expansion that will likely take until 2018 to complete, he said.
With the cafeteria closing down this week, temporary food services were set up on the second floor in the Kinetic Hall, as renovations to that area are expected to last a year.
The expansion adds 20,000 square feet to the lobby and doubles the size of the gift shop.
But it's not just the amenities that are growing.
Plans call for a 10,000-square-foot gallery dedicated to the Canadian Arctic and polar science, Nursall said.
"Because we are a northern science centre — a northern city — we want to do things that are more reflective of where we and because it's only going to get more important over the coming decades," Nursall said.
Upgrades are also planned in the popular areas like Space Place, Discoveryland and the planetarium.
When asked what's driving the upgrades and expansion Nursall says it's demand.
"Our camps are at capacity, many days our school programs are at capacity."
Over the last four years blockbuster traveling-exhibits focusing on Harry Potter, Star Wars and now Sherlock Holmes, have boosted attendance.
Nursall says the centre sold a record 5,200 memberships in 2015, while attendance peaked at 600,000.
"We need to grow so we can do more things."
Work started without funding secured
Nursall said while the work ha begun, not all the funding has been secured.
The City of Edmonton has committed $12 million to the Aurora Project.
The centre is still looking to lock in matching funds from the provincial and federal governments, Nursall said.
Telus World of Science Edmonton has kicked off a community fundraising campaign in the hope of raising $7 million.
And Nursall says the centre is dipping into its financial reserves to help move the project along.
"There is an element of risk, but we're managing that very carefully," he said.
Florian believes space exploration was made possible by people going boldly forward.
The reward for him, he said, is the wonder in people's eyes when they look through his telescope for the very first time and catch a glimpse of something out of this world.
"It's always just great seeing their jaws drop open and they go, 'Wow, that's incredible'."
You can see more from the Telus World of Science Edmonton on Our Edmonton on Saturday at 10 a.m., Sunday at 11 a.m. and Monday at 11 a.m. on CBC TV.