Tamworth's eye on the heavens is beginning to take shape with earthworks starting today for the $1.8 million Regional Astronomy and Science Centre. President of the Tamworth Regional Astronomy Club, Leigh Tschirpig, said he was delighted to see the project getting underway with the commencement of earthworks at Victoria Park with a planned completion date in October. "The high levels of interest in astronomy and space in the Tamworth region is absolutely fantastic with the Club's continued growth to around 80 members since its establishment in late 2015," he said. "TRAC has been hosting crowds of up to 200 people at the Club's public viewing nights and regularly receives enquiries from schools, community groups, organisations and residents from across the region about telescope observing evenings and astronomy presentations."
The Centre is being made possible through a partnership between the NSW Government Tamworth Regional Council and Tamworth Regional Astronomy Club.
The NSW Government is supplying $1.804m, Council $105,000 towards the cost of the upgraded car park and $300,000 for water and sewer infrastructure and TRAC is providing $38,000 in-kind of specialist equipment and $40,000 cash. Member for Tamworth Kevin Anderson said the start of construction is great news in the midst of difficult times with tight restrictions imposed on the region in an effort to battle COVID-19.
"The start of construction shows me that it is business as usual, to build attractions for visitors, who we hope will come when this crisis is finally over," he said. "Not only will Tamworth be a highlight on the interstellar map, but this is about creating jobs for locals with the Councils Civil Construction crew doing the earthworks and tenders awarded at the end of the month for the construction of the building. "This new Regional Astronomy and Science Centre will help Tamworth become a must-see destination attracting thousands of 'astro-tourists' looking to the skies for their next adventure." The $1.8 million grant will help fund a new observatory with a roll-off roof to house large telescopes, a second observatory also with a roll-off roof, to accommodate a historic telescope, a planetarium and an education space for hands-on science programs. TRC Deputy Mayor Phil Betts said the Tamworth Regional Astronomy and Science Centre would bring educational and financial opportunities for the community. "It's so exciting to know that in about six months we will have a unique tourism and educational facility," he said. "I have no doubt it will be a drawcard not only for tourists as part of the Inland Astro-Trail but also researchers and astronomers from around the world. "It has educational benefits for our own community but also potential positive impacts for our local economy through increased visitation by tourists, students and scientists," Mr Betts concluded.