- Associated Press - Sunday, October 26, 2014

BROWNSVILLE, Texas (AP) - Park officials in South Texas are working on a master plan to provide tourists with better views of rocket launches from the world’s first commercial orbital spaceport, which is being developed by SpaceX.

Officials view possible upgrades to the area’s parks as an economic engine, The Brownsville Herald (http://bit.ly/1rFl7mF ) reported. They’re also hopeful crowds will want to watch the commercial rocket launches from Isla Blanca Park, located on the southern tip of South Padre Island.

It’s also about more than just the launch, South Padre Island spokesman Adrian Rodriguez said.

“They’ve got to eat after they go see the rockets,” he said, noting that while sales tax figures should increase, occupancy taxes paid on hotel rooms should spike during launches, too.

The new attraction will allow the city to diversify its tourism experiences, he said, explaining that the island’s ecotourism has always been a draw, but SpaceX will attract other guests, such as “scientists and engineers.”

Cameron County Precinct 1 Commissioner Sofia Benavides says a master plan for parks could also include an observation deck at Isla Blanca. But the plan won’t just take SpaceX into consideration, Benavides said, adding that a county-led advisory committee has come up with some other ideas.

“It’s the very beginning stages,” Benavides said. Other ideas for Isla Blanca deck include an amphitheatre, the creation of a harbor and a ferry to take visitors across the channel. There’s also been talk of bringing in a large restaurant or a hotel.

The parks system has until late 2016 to prepare for the first SpaceX launch.

A park official says commissioners should have a draft plan within the next couple of months.

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Information from: The Brownsville Herald, http://www.brownsvilleherald.com

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