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Space expands at Edmonton's Telus World of Science

A $40-million dollar renovation and expansion is now underway at the Telus World of Science in Edmonton. A bigger gift shop, lobby and a new arctic gallery are amongst upgrades coming to iconic building now 32 years old.

'We need to grow so we can do more things'

Alan Nursall, the president and CEO at the Telus World of Science in Edmonton, explains their $40-million expansion and renovation plan. 1:10

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. 
Look up, way up! Frank Florian from the Telus World of Science in Edmonton shows us around the observatory and some of the cool space stuff you can see in our night sky. 3:05

"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.
Young visitors 'float' in a model of a spaceship, one of the original spaces scheduled for redesign. (Telus World of Science)

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.
Alan Nursall is the president and CEO of Telus World of Sciences Edmonton. (John Robertson)

"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.
The Space Science Centre that is the core of the Telus World of Science was designed by architect Douglas Cardinal to blend art and science. (John Robertson)

"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.

Frank Florian is the director of planetarium and space sciences at the Telus World of Science in Edmonton. (John Robertson)

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