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Castle Science and Technology Center facing bankruptcy

Thursday, August 23, 2012

It seems even a big boost from NASA wasn't enough to keep a North Valley science museum flying.

The Castle Science and Technology Center near Atwater is on the verge of filing for bankruptcy.

Closed signs outside the Center have kept out visitors with inquisitive minds since August 1.

To help the struggling museum save money on utility bills, management temporarily closed the facility down until the first week of September.

Since 1996, thousands of kids have roamed through the main floor of this museum, getting some fun, hands-on experience with science. But now it's empty and it can stay that way.

"We are really looking at the eventually of going out of business, we have not yet filed for bankruptcy, but we see that on the horizon," Dave Olsen of the Challenger Learning Center Foundation said.

The museum's more than $1 million debt in loans could keep it from opening back up. Even though NASA recently stepped in giving the museum a $370 thousand grant over the next three years, officials say it's not enough.

"Without some infusion of fund, a major infusion of funds, we recognize we probably couldn't live up to the three-year agreement," Olsen said.

A drop in young visitors from valley schools and problems negotiating its lease with Merced County have hurt the museum.

"We were going from a no-cost operation for the building to half a million dollars a year and that's really the source of what our problem is," Olsen said.

During the museum's 16-year run it has seen ups and downs, but it appears without a money miracle the museum's ride may soon be over.

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atwater, merced county, local, carlos saucedo
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