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TUCSON, AZ-The University of Arizona is planning to build a $72-million science center Downtown under a proposal that could revitalize the city’s core.

The proposed center, scheduled to open in 2008, will go before the city council next month for final approval, paving the way for other projects such as an expanded convention center and a new arena Downtown. The plan for Interstate 10 near Cushing Street has already been approved by the Arizona Board of Regents.

The $72 million cost of the science center will include a giant screen theater, a “unispherium” and a gem and mineral collection, among other exhibits. About $20 million of that cost would come from the city’s sales tax revenues and the balance picked up by the University of Arizona, primarily through the sale of bonds.

An economic study of the proposal concluded that a university-built science center would attract an estimated 420,000 visitors annually to Downtown and could be successful enough to be self-sustaining. It’s also viewed as a magnet for new hotels plus added retail and residential development.

Karen Thorenson, assistant city manager, tells GlobeSt.com that if the council approves the plan next month, she will ask the city to open proposals for a new Downtown arena. If built, the new arena would allow the current convention center arena to be turned into conference rooms, she says. The Downtown currently lacks a sizable convention center, making the city unable to compete with other municipalities for conventions and major meetings.

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