Lawmaker launches idea of selling Spaceport

SANTA FE (KRQE) – There has been setback after setback and not much confidence that things will take off at Spaceport America anytime soon. This legislative session, the Spaceport Authority is asking lawmakers for more money to stay afloat but one lawmaker has a very different idea, sell it.

“I think the clock is almost at empty,” Senator George Munoz said. “The sand glass is almost out.”

The countdown for Spaceport America to launch is up. That’s according to Gallup Senator George Munoz. The Democrat said it’s time to put the nearly 700,000 square foot complex on the market.

“We know we have opportunities down there, we have great opportunities, but we’re seeing them slide by,” Sen. Munoz said. “I think a lot of it is lack of management, lack of try.”

The Spaceport’s main tenant, Virgin Galactic, wants to fly people to space at a cost of $200,000 but they keep pushing back that launch date. Then, on Halloween of last year, the company’s spaceship broke apart in mid-air during a test flight over the Mojave Desert in California.

New Mexico spent $220 million to build it and Senator Munoz now says the state has come up short.

“It’s not a revenue stream and they don’t know how to get that revenue stream and that’s what needs to change,” he said.

He said a private company would do a better job behind the controls and believes there is a buyer out there.

“I’m not ready to just go out and sell it yet,” fellow Senator Bill Soules of Las Cruces said.

A fellow Democrat, he said the whole picture needs to be looked at.

“I’m not sure it’s time to bail, but it’s time to start looking at how much is this going to continue to cost and when do we start seeing the real returns.”

This year, Spaceport officials are seeking an emergency $1.7 million from lawmakers.

“We’re hoping through new customers, we can make up the shortfall,” Christine Anderson, the Spaceport’s Executive Director said in a phone interview.

Anderson said by sticking a “For Sale” sign out front just creates more problems.

“All the momentum would stop because we are in the middle of and talking to a lot of different customers,” she said. “Well, no customers are going to be coming during that time.”

She said it would also mean losing jobs and possibly current deals.

“I really just don’t see how this would play out.”

Anderson also said that Virgin Galactic and SpaceX, the most recent tenant, could sue the state if a sale is made. She added every other spaceport in America has ties at the state level.

If the Spaceport were to be sold, the bonds used to pay for it would first have to be paid off and anything left over would go back to the state.

In the meantime, the Spaceport says it’s making its money other ways. The authority said it has hosted 13 special events like automotive and fashion shoots, including ones with Kawasaki, Land Rover, Nike and J. Crew.

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