Peoria Unified opens SMart Center early, home of former Challenger Center


Just in time for the spring semester to kick off, the Peoria Unified School District opened the Sunrise Mountain Art Center, also known as SMart Center, for students on the campus of Sunrise Mountain High School.

The newly renovated building, formerly the Arizona Challenger Space Center, is opening seven months ahead of schedule, according to a news release.

An official ribbon-cutting event will take place Feb. 11, and include tours of the facility.

The building will be able to serve about 200 students in five separate classroom spaces with art, ceramics and basic and advanced photography. The space is complete with a digital and wet lab for photography students. The design also includes community spaces, and the district will soon seek opportunities to rent open spaces to community organizations and host enrichment classes for students beyond the school day.

Moving Sunrise Mountain’s visual arts programming into the new SMart Center allows for additional space for general education classrooms at Sunrise Mountain High School, expanding capacity by about 250 students. The school was at student capacity, according to enrollment numbers last year.

The decision to convert the previous Challenger Space Center, which the district acquired through a land swap agreement, came after careful consideration and input from the community. The team from Orcutt Winslow and Sun Valley Construction worked on the project to convert the 25,000 square foot building into a space for student learning.

Peoria Unified School District is home to 42 public schools and more than 37,000 students and 4,000 staff, serving as one of the largest employers in the West Valley and one of the largest unified school districts in Arizona.