Scobee serves as venue to promote community, create revenue

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President Robert Vela speaks to employees Friday in the Scobee on SAC Giving Back, the United Way campaign to collect donations from full-time employees for local charities and scholarships. Vela and employees celebrated 49 percent participation from the college community.  File

President Robert Vela speaks to employees Friday in the Scobee on SAC Giving Back, the United Way campaign to collect donations from full-time employees for local charities and scholarships. Vela and employees celebrated 49 percent participation from the college community. File

Scobee Education Center draws benefits as an ideal event location for organizations.

By Nicole Bautista   

sac-ranger@alamo.edu

From a Spurs player who rented it for a romantic dinner with his wife to an annual conference for STEM teachers, Scobee Education Center reaps benefits by hosting events in its unique facility for partnerships and businesses.

“If it doesn’t benefit Scobee Education Center directly, it benefits San Antonio College and we are part of this college, so we are all part of that bigger community,” Scobee Director Rick Varner said.

The 22,000-square-foot facility houses a planetarium, a rooftop star deck and observatory, and the Challenger Learning Center, which is unique among the 43 centers in the U.S., Varner said.

For example, in February, Our Lady of the Lake University and Education Service Center, Region 20 will host a conference at Scobee for STEM teachers, “Out in Space, Down to Earth.” Last year, the conference brought in 296 teachers.

Scobee is not charging those organizations for using the facility because the conference is good publicity for this college.

Jennifer Becerra, academic program coordinator for Scobee, describes the conference as “an outreach to teachers and the education community. So that they know that we are here, so they know what we do and they know about the programs we have created for the public schools and the community.”

Essentially, if a middle school or high school science teacher came to Scobee for a conference and went to a program with a professor in the astronomy department, they now have a first-hand connection with somebody who teaches at this college. They can then talk to their students about courses at this college.

“It is part of nurturing the culture,” Varner said. “Getting kids who are in younger grades a vision of going to San Antonio College.”

Typically the fee-based events tend to be presented by local businesses that are holding socials or receptions for clientele.

“It’s a unique facility, and so their guests feel like they are doing something special,” Varner said.

Scobee has nine options for renting its galleries, halls, classrooms and other spaces. Rentals range from $250 for a two-hour birthday party in the CLC briefing room to $900 for the Powell Star Deck to $6,000 for use of the entire center on a Saturday.

Events like these get approved by Chancellor Bruce Leslie to incorporate bands, food and bars, which can be spread out around Scobee.

Among those who have rented the building is a San Antonio Spurs player.

“He wanted to come out with his wife and see a planetarium show and have a candlelight dinner on the roof prepared by chef Jason Dady,” Varner said of the San Antonio restaurant owner.

Scobee uses some of the revenue from facility rentals to pay for both programs and promotions.

The ultimate goal is getting “as many kids as possible to be interested in our programs to come here to San Antonio College,” Varner said.

The revenue helps to get new and exciting missions to run in the Challenger Learning Center and shows to feature in the planetarium.

“We just debuted ‘Accidental Astronauts,’ a new children’s planetarium show, and that is something we bought through our revenue account,” Varner said.

Planetarium shows all cost about $6,000-$10,000 apiece, he said.

“We will continue to partner with any groups where we see that synergy between us,” Varner said. “Something we do helps them and something they do helps us, and I think that is good for the whole community.”

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