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[i]"We needed it, with the cease of the shuttle program. We needed a good marketing product that people would want to come and see — and Atlantis is definitely that product. It's been real successful for us," Protze said.
"Atlantis has been absolutely instrumental in showing that we still are open at the Kennedy Space Center," he said.
The $100 million Atlantis exhibit opened amid much fanfare on June 29, 2013. Economically speaking, Protze labeled the retired orbiter "a shot in the arm" for his tourist destination during the ongoing lull in manned spaceflight — as shuttle-bearing museums in California, New York and northern Virginia can also attest.
More than 1 million people go to the KSC Visitor Complex on State Road 405 per year, said Andrea Farmer, spokeswoman. The 25-percent-plus attendance jump occurred between January and May, compared with the identical time span last year, she said.[/i]
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