Rainbow City chosen for new Challenger Learning Center

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By Kaitlin Hoskins, News Editor

Rainbow City will now be home to a Challenger Learning Center, the first in Alabama, and Mayor Joe Taylor said the town is excited to welcome the center.
“We cannot wait to see the incredible opportunities that this collaboration will bring to our city,” Taylor said.
It was announced Monday, June 26, that the center, which will offer space-themed and hands-on learning programs, will be located on five acres by the Rainbow Middle School and John S. Jones Elementary School, across from the Etowah Mega Sports Complex.
The future center will serve students from all over northeast Alabama, including Blount, Calhoun, Cherokee, DeKalb, Etowah, Marshall and St. Clair counties and even northern Jefferson County.
According to Rainbow City Councilman Jeff Prince, the choice of Rainbow City as the center’s home came down to one factor – location.
“The [advisory] council looked at all of the proposed cities,” said Prince, who served on the Advisory Council for the Challenger Learning Center. “It really came down to that old saying, ‘location, location, location.’ Our location will serve the most kids in a 90-mile-radius. There were so many places that wanted the center, but it came down to where the center needed to be. We are fortunate that it was Rainbow City.”
The location will be convenient to visitors, with easy access to Interstates 59 and 759, U.S. Highway 411 and Alabama Highway 77.
To prepare for the new facility, the city will spend about $175,000 for site development of the $450,000 worth of land. The city will also do $10,000 worth of site groundskeeping for seven years and offer a school resource officer for the center once it is complete. The City of Rainbow City’s total contribution is estimated to be between $700,000 and $800,000.
The city is not the only contributor to the center, however. The State of Alabama has committed to $8,500,000, the Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama has committed to $200,000, the Etowah County Commission has committed to $100,000 and local entities have also pledged thousands of dollars. The City of Attalla and the City of Hokes Bluff have both pledged $25,000 each and Etowah County Community Development Committees of Districts 28, 29 and 30 have all pledged $10,000 each.
“Our support proposal for the Challenger Learning Center is proof that when we work together, we can achieve great things,” Taylor said.
The Challenger Learning Center in Rainbow City will be one of 36 centers across the United States and two other countries. So far, there are only centers in 24 states, the Alabama location will make 25.
The network of centers has reached more than six million children worldwide and provide a variety of hands-on science, technology, engineering and math programs. The centers offer fully immersive space-themed missions including shuttle simulator, mission control and transport rooms.
The Challenger Learning Center network is part of a not-for-profit education organization founded by the families and loved ones of those lost in the Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy on January 28, 1986. The fatal accident, which killed all seven members of the crew on board, brought the crew’s families together to create a living legacy.
“In the aftermath of the Challenger accident, the crew’s families came together, firmly committed to the belief that they must carry on the spirit of their loved ones by continuing the Challenger crew’s educational mission,” the organization’s website states.
The Challenger Learning Center in Rainbow City is a couple years out from opening doors to students. Application and design of the facility is expected to be completed in the last half of 2023 and construction is expected to begin in 2024 with a hopeful completion date in 2025.

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