Simplified: Washington Pavilion museum officials have been dreaming about adding a planetarium for some time. And now, with a $2 million donation, that dream will become a reality.

Why it matters

  • The $2 million donation – which broke the record set earlier this year for largest single donation from an individual – will be used to transform the existing CineDome into a state-of-the-art planetarium.
  • When donors Dick and Kathy Sweetman came to the Pavilion, they asked for big ideas. And both Director of Museums Brandon Hanson and Director of Education Maddy Grogan knew the planetarium was a big idea worth pitching.
"The stars kind of aligned," Grogan said.
  • The timing of the new planetarium is also helpful. The CineDome needed a more sustainable future plan as films get more and more expensive, Hanson said.
"We needed to find a solution that would withstand the test of time," he said.

What exactly is a planetarium?

It's all about sharing outer space and space exploration, Grogan said.

The modern planetarium – like what'll be at the Pavilion – will also have the ability to do:

  • laser shows,
  • live feeds of space launches
  • and nearly "endless" programming options, Grogan said.
"In our community, I feel like we value education," she added. "Having the planetarium is just another way to offer that."

What happens next?

The first step is getting approval from City Council for the name change from the "Wells Fargo CineDome" to the "Wells Fargo CineDome & Sweetman Planetarium."

  • That passed a first reading with the council on Tuesday night.

Once the renaming is approved, work can begin on updating the CineDome with the technology needed to make it a planetarium.

The goal is to have everything done by the summer of 2023.