In The News
Meyers wants to raise the bar on athletics,
Street & Smiths's Sports Business Journal
like a few hundred miles
October 14-20 2002
By Steve Cameron
Gene Meyers wants to raise the level of sports. In fact, he'd like to take athletic competition a few hundred miles into space.
Meyers is the president of the Space Island Group, a California company that intends to privately finance the design, launch and construction of very large commercial facilities for use in space orbit. Meyers, a career industrial engineer, has enlisted technical advisers like John McLucas, former secretary of the Air Force, and one-time NASA space stations director Phil Culbertson.
Space Island was incorporated in 1999 and already has spent more than $2 million on engineering studies, promotion, design concepts and other start-up costs. Meyers puts up some of his own money, and now the company plans a private stock sale for which Meyers already has $5 Million in share-purchase commitments.
"we've got a huge capital expenditure to put something on space, obviously." Meyers said. "we've budgeted up to $2 billion for the first few years, but it's spread out over a period of time and gets larger as we go. No single company is going to underwrite an entire $15 billion program and launch, but if several firms see the potential and contract to get aboard, we can leverage that to obtain private funding."
So what does Space Island have to do with sports?
Well, Meyers believes that among the many uses for reconfigured external tanks - The Kind used by NASA's space shuttle - might be some new types of games that could be played in zero gravity and televised back to Earth.
"We could actually have a first cylinder in orbit in three years or a little more," said Meyers, who is pitching the idea of commercial space tourism and luxury hotels floating through the heavens. "Those tanks, which would be fabricated on the ground for whatever games or events that would be played, will carry cameras that would allow telecasts."
Space Island, which has had preliminary discussions with Sony and plans to seek other sponsoring companies - to the tune of $20 million to $50 million a year - for rights to be involved with the project.
Executives of Sony USA will be getting a full presentation in the next week or so, and the company confirmed that one of it's Japan-based directors of Research and Development, Dr. Keiji Fukuzawa, would be meeting Space Island executives later this month. "if you take someone like Sony or Mitsubishi, we'll be talking about the possible sports application, but also the publicity and the ability we'd have to drive interest in their related video games and so many other things," Meyers said.
Actually, the sports angle is part of an educational process that Meyers and his partners think will help promote their venture.
"Starting in January, we're going to have high school and college students put their physics knowledge to use and suggest sports that can be played at zero gravity, whether they're different versions of existing sports - gymnastics is an obvious possibility - or entirely new types of events," he said.
Meyers hopes to lure education-minded celebrities like Magic Johnson to help judge the students entries.