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Entrepreneur plans business launch soon

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Submitted Photo Spaceport Roswell uses virtual reality technology to transport people to other worlds and alien experiences. “Flight attendants” Michaela Balderrama and Parth Bhakta show the headsets.

A city councilor, also the organizer of the annual Roswell Christmas Railway attraction, is working to open a year-round business focusing on virtual reality entertainment.

Jacob Roebuck of Roebuck Media launched his Spaceport Roswell virtual reality experience during the UFO Festival in July 2019. Now he is working to make a permanent business of the venture and is renovating a leased space for that purpose in the 100 block of East Second Street, between Main Street and Virginia Avenue.

He said the plan is to open in early July.

“Our original hope was to open up for the July 4 weekend, for the UFO Festival,” he said. “That is still what our timeframe is, restrictions pending.”

The current state public health orders limiting large gatherings and requiring social distancing led MainStreet Roswell to cancel the traditional multi-venue UFO Festival this year. A smaller “virtual” UFO Festival to encourage visiting local stores and sites is still planned for July 3 and 4, and the Galacticon Sci-Fi Film Fest will occur through the Galacticon website July 3-5.

Spaceport Roswell will provide high-tech entertainment, Roebuck said. People can take different “journeys” as their virtual headsets allow them to feel immersed in the visuals of a film and part of the action. The group’s website, spaceportroswellnm.com, will sell the tickets for the 30- to 40-minute experiences. Roebuck is still working on setting the hours of operation, but he thinks it will probably be about 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

“We have been working on it for a couple of years now, and we are excited to have a permanent home now,” he said.

The first VR journey will be an enhanced version of the company’s own production of “1947,” which was introduced last year and revolves around the Roswell Incident, or the discovery of a UFO near Roswell. This version of the tale comes from the perspective of an extraterrestrial aboard the crashed vehicle. (The Roswell Daily Record is a sponsor of this production.)

For future offerings, Roebuck said that he intends to create an Apollo 11 experience where people can travel along with Neil Armstrong as he takes his first step on the moon, as well as a journey to Mars and maybe even experience the Titanic disaster.

“We have a (UFO) museum, which is great, but we feel like the people who come to visit Roswell are looking for more things to do,” he said. “This is a high-tech experience that people will hopefully be talking about after they leave.”

While tourists are considered a major audience, Roebuck said he also wants locals to book passages. He also plans for Spaceport Roswell to provide themed events during Halloween and Christmas, and predicts that regular upgrades and changes will occur.

“Virtual technology is a rapidly evolving and changing technology,” he said. “We are starting with some good technology, but we are definitely watching the technology on the horizon and trying to integrate it.”

Roebuck and his company, Roebuck Media, are the producers of the films “Coyote County Loser” and “Camp,” and the founding organizer of the Roswell Christmas Railway attraction held in December since 2016 at the Spring River Zoo. The Christmas Railway includes children’s activities, live entertainment, food and beverages, shopping, train rides and numerous light displays.

The international virtual reality industry had a market value of $10.32 billion in 2019, according to a report by Grand View Research of San Francisco. Many different applications exist for the technology, but its largest use now is in the consumer and entertainment sector, which represents about 52% of the global industry.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.