Nearly 50 years after it was founded in Arecibo, the world’s foremost single-dish radio telescope facility is the focus of a massive redevelopment project that calls for the construction of a hotel and planetarium to the tune of $50 million, government and facility officials said Tuesday.
The goal is to attract more visitors to the world-class facility that is now run by a consortium of local universities —the Metropolitan University and the University of Puerto Rico — as well as California-based SRI International and the Universities Space Research Association in Maryland.
Last June, the National Science Foundation granted SRI International a $42 million contract to manage the Arecibo Observatory, which averages about 100,000 visitors a year, through October 2016.
“The Arecibo Observatory is one of the attractions that make us unique as a destination. This is why this administration has put its resources to continue emphasizing its worldwide educational and tourism value,” Tourism Company Executive Director Mario González-Lafuente said during a ceremony at the facility to sign a Memorandum of Understanding establishing the promotion efforts.
The funding for the ambitious project, which among other things calls for building planetarium within two years and the hotel in five years, will come from the government. The observatory will convert staff rooms and cafeteria into a modern hotel and restaurant, in partnership with the José A. (Tony) Santana International School of Hospitality and Culinary Arts.