Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex unveiled the first phase of improvements designed to enhance the guest experience earlier this year. The attraction’s new $16 million entry includes a grand plaza and fountain; ticket stations and self-service kiosks; will call, guest services and information stations; a retail shop; and a restaurant. The enhancements are part of a 10-year Master Plan developed by Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex concessioner, Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts, in partnership with NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
The new entrance draws guests from the parking lot into a grand entry plaza where they are greeted by a brand new, first-ever 3D representation of the NASA insignia that spans 13 feet in diameter. To the right of the globe stands a 75-foot-long fountain that pays homage to the dreams of late President John F. Kennedy, for whom NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is named. The 5,000-gallon fountain is lit in the evenings with LED lights and features 26 jets of water that can be programmed to create light shows for guests as they exit the park or during evening special events or exhibitions.
Purchasing admission tickets is now a quicker, more efficient process for guests thanks to a complete redesign of the ticket stations. Two separate stations feature six ticket windows each and offer a “fair queing” system to direct the next guest in line to the next available window. Digital screens within each station’s covered queue provide descriptions of tour options and prices to help guests make informed choices. Those who wish to bypass the regular ticket lines may purchase directly from one of six self-service ticket kiosks, and guests who have purchased tickets in advance may proceed directly to a dedicated Will Call station.
Farther along the plaza, is a new 2,500-square-foot Voyagers retail shop that allows guests to make a last-minute purchase before heading to their vehicle and allows those who wish only to shop, to do so without purchasing an admission ticket. Inspiration is the theme in Voyagers, where bold graphics depict the progress of the American space program since the 1950s and challenge guests to “Dream Bigger.” Above the check-out area, a 18-foot in diameter glass light fixture modeled after Mars offers an artistic interpretation of the Red Planet.
Beyond the ticket plaza, guests pass through a covered archway where they are invited in six-foot-tall, blue letters to “EXPLORE.” In the near distance, views of towering rockets in the Rocket Garden, representing early space exploration, beckon guests to get an up-close look at these famous vehicles.
As guests continue their way into the park, they may notice two cobbled or slightly bumpy strips running on either side of the paved walkway. This symbolic pathway is made of authentic “crawler rock” — the very same Tennessee river rock that lines Kennedy Space Center’s crawler way to support the massive weight of NASA’s nearly 3,000-ton crawler-transporter. The walkway marks the beginning of the “Vapor Trail,” a path named for the plume of steam that follows a rocket upon ascent. The Vapor Trail will be extended in further phases of development to provide visitors with a more deliberate path to guide them through the park’s main attractions.
The first stage of enhancements also includes the new outdoor Rocket Garden Café which was designed in the retro style of the 1950s and 1960s as a nod to the early days of space exploration — the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. The menu features diverse menu items such as Conch Fritters, Asian Chicken Salad with Honey Lime Vinaigrette, Chicken Empanadas or Beef Croquettes with Spicy Tomato Sauce and Mediterranean Flat Bread Pizza.
The next stage of the Visitor Complex’s 10-year Master Plan includes the opening of a $100 million, 90,000-square foot exhibit to showcase space shuttle Atlantis and celebrate the 30-year space shuttle program as a stepping stone to future space endeavors. The opening is slated for July 2013.
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex opens daily at 9 a.m. with closing times varying by season. Admission is $50 plus tax for adults and $40 plus tax for children ages 3-11. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 877-313-2610 or visit www.KennedySpaceCenter.com.