New digs give PWSSC competitive edge as research facility

Hoffman salutes donors large and small who made the project possible

Guests pour into the Prince William Sound Science Center after the ribbon cutting ceremonies ended. Photo courtesy of Hamish Laird

Prince William Sound Science Center’s new facilities on five waterfront acres in Cordova, which opened on Saturday, June 4, will give the region and the state a competitive edge for important economic opportunities, says Katrina Hoffman, president and CEO of the science center.

“There has never been a more important time to invest in the future,” Hoffman told more than 200 people who turned out under warm, sunny skies for the festive event. “Crises seem to be colliding into one another, but the positive actions we collectively take today can have lasting impacts across generations. What we learn and do and demonstrate through this new campus can contribute solutions and help create a future that we all want to be a part of.”

Celebrants at the opening of the new Prince William Sound Science Center, from left, Seth Walker, Verne Martell, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, PWSSC President & CEO Katrina Hoffman, former Gov. Bill Walker, and carver Mike Webber flanked by the two new house post totems funded by The Eyak Corp. and Chugach Alaska Corp. Photo courtesy of Seth Walker

“It’s funny how things come full circle,” Hoffman mused. As she recalled finding an article from the early 1990s that pondered whether the science center might have a future on a forested site next to the tidally influenced lagoons at Shelter Cove.

“Everyone seemed to forget about that location,” she said. “In the intervening years the Science Center looked at, attempted, and made a U-turn from about a dozen other locations and timelines. And look where we are now: right here in this beautiful space, with views down the inlet and up Mt. Eyak. It feels really good, and when you walk through those doors, you’ll realize that it is really good.”

Guests at the ribbon cutting ceremonies for the Prince William Sound Science Center partake of refreshments. Photo courtesy of David Janka

Over 33 years, the science center has generated over $120 million for Alaska, contributing an estimated $60 million to the local economy, not including this construction project,” she said. “From the standpoint of research and education, this is truly the world’s richest laboratory and the world’s richest natural classroom set amongst the world’s richest waters”

The Eagle House Post Totem, carved by Mike Webber, in front of the new PWSSC is seen flanked by Mt. Eyak. Photo courtesy of Valdez photographer Mike Meadors

Hoffman also expressed the thanks of the science center to dozens of people, businesses and donors large and small who made the new facilities possible, from co-founder R. J. Kopchak to marine biologist Rick Steiner, another founder who wasn’t there for the ceremonies, but played a key role, and partners at the Copper River Watershed Project and the Cordova City Council.

During the ribbon cutting ceremony, two paragliders descended from Mt. Eyak and landed in Hippie Cove, and there could not have been a more picturesque complement to the joyful, bluebird day, Hoffman said.