Mojave residents can officially say goodbye to the Pool Building on Poole Street (No Relation).
The Mojave Air and Space Port Board of Directors voted on Tuesday to rename the structure after CEO and General Manager Stu Witt, who spearheaded the renovation of the building where military pilots once underwent emergency water egress training.
The Stuart O. Witt Event Center will host its first public gathering next month when the Antelope Valley Board of Trade holds its Business Outlook Conference on Feb. 21.
Deputy General Manager Karina Drees said naming the building after Witt would be a great way to honor him for his contribution to the airport over the past 12 years. She added that it would be easier to market the Pool Building to Board of Trade attendees if it had an actual name.
Witt told the board he was somewhat reluctant to have his name on the building. He said he was less interested in naming structures at the airport after himself than putting people to work.
Witt, who is planning to retire from his job no later than 17 months from now, said after he is gone the board would be free to do whatever it wanted.
The board vote was 3-2 in favor, with Dick Rutan, Marie Walker and JoAnn Painter voting for the proposal and Jim Balentine and Allen Peterson voting against it.
Both Balentine and Peterson said they did not have any objections to honoring Witt in this manner. Balentine voted against the measure because he felt the decision should be unanimous, and he knew that Peterson was planning to vote against it.
Peterson said he felt that the decision had been suddenly sprung on the board, and he wanted more time to consider the ramifications of the decision.
Rutan, who appeared to be the driving force behind the effort to honor Witt, disagreed. “We talked about this,” he said.
“Who’s we?” Peterson asked, saying there had been no discussion by the board of naming it after Witt since he became a director a year ago.
Peterson said he was concerned that naming the building after Witt might be off-putting to any company that might want to purchase the naming rights to the structure.
The airport has been approaching potential sponsors to put their names on the building in the same way corporations do for sports arenas. Witt told the board he hoped to sell the naming rights for $2 million, which would recoup the airport’s investment in renovating the structure.
Drees said the events center could accommodate both Witt’s name and that of a future corporate sponsor. Having a formal name would assist in marketing the structure, she added.
So far, the airport has received lukewarm interest in purchasing the naming rights, Drees said. Companies want to see how well the building does in hosting events before making such a financial commitment.
Last month, the structure hosted holiday parties by Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites, which were both very pleased with the facility, Drees added.