No one questions the feasibility of a science center in Utah. The only question now is what form the center should take, said Marlon Berrett, chairman of the Utah Science Center Advisory Board.

Berrett, who is also chairman of the board of directors of the Hansen Planetarium, just heard back from four groups of citizens who studied the idea of a full-fledged science center.The groups made final reports during March. "Based on their recommendations, the Utah Science Center Task Force is putting together a request for proposal for a study to be done by a professional consulting firm.

"That is the next step," Berrett said.

Two years ago, Salt Lake County officials said they wanted a science center and they wanted it in the Salt Palace.

Bart Barker, then a county commissioner, called the location perfect. "Hundreds of thousands of business people attend conventions at the Salt Palace every year and 5 million people visit Temple Square."

Berrett agrees. "Having a really premier science center in the center of our city would be a great attraction and help the complex be financially successful."

Location won't be the primary focus of the upcoming professional study, however.

The citizen task forces studied how to integrate the science center into the secondary and college education system, how it should coordinate with other museums, and how to get Utah's technology industries involved with hands-on displays.

The professional consultant will take these studies into account to project facility requirements and operational costs.

Berrett said, "Many of the science centers around the country, after original startup costs, are breaking even or making a profit."

Including an IMAX theater, like the one at the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum, should help make a Utah science center profitable, he said.

More important than profit, though, is education, Berrett stressed.

"I'm really concerned. This science center is not just something nice. It's important for our people. Science education is no longer an option in our lives.

"Nationally, we are simply falling behind in science education. As Thomas Jefferson said, an educated population is the only repository for democracy."