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Transformational Gift Will Create World-Class Planetarium

Dick and Kathy Sweetman, with their family, following the announcement of the Sweetman Planetarium.

A transformational gift from Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation donors Dick and Kathy Sweetman will create a state-of-the-art planetarium on the campus of the Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls. The gift will transform the existing Wells Fargo CineDome into both a theater and a planetarium. Upon completion, the facility will be named the Wells Fargo CineDome & Sweetman Planetarium.

“Sioux Falls has been our home for more than 70 years. We’ve raised our family here, we’ve built lasting friendships here and we’ve been fortunate to have been in business in this great city,” the Sweetmans said. “We love Sioux Falls, and we’re honored to be able to give back in this special way to create something the entire community can enjoy.”

In addition to their gift to create the planetarium, the Sweetmans have also established an endowment at the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation to support the planetarium’s ongoing maintenance.

Community Foundation President Andy Patterson said the impact of the Sweetmans’ generosity will live on for generations.

“Dick and Kathy’s love for Sioux Falls, their selfless generosity, and their desire to support the greater good of this community is truly an inspiration,” Patterson said. “It’s been an honor to work with this special couple on their philanthropic journey — to learn about their passions and interests, to dream with them about what could be, and to explore different transformational giving opportunities.”

About the Sweetman Planetarium

When it’s complete, the facility, which will be South Dakota’s first-ever planetarium, will be among the region’s most advanced planetariums.

“As we search for new and exciting ways to deliver on our mission, we are reimagining and repurposing some of our current spaces. To have the Sweetman family make such a significant investment in the Washington Pavilion is unprecedented, and we are so grateful they had the vision to help us create the region’s most advanced planetarium,” says Darrin Smith, President and CEO of Washington Pavilion Management, Inc.

Planetariums were first created to simply educate about stars, planets and constellations. Today, more than 2,000 planetariums across the globe have become more immersive, using sophisticated computer technologies, video projection, animation and contemporary music to animate the stars. By investing in the technology to utilize the Wells Fargo CineDome as not only a large-format film theater but also a planetarium, new audiences including middle school, high school and college students as well as adults will come to enjoy the new addition.

The Washington Pavilion has engaged Evans & Sutherland to engineer and install the new technology and integrate its features into the current Wells Fargo CineDome. The planetarium will include a Digistar 7 high-resolution (nearly 7K) projector, a new NanoSeam dome screen making seams invisible, an AstroFX Audio Advanced 5.1 surround system and new lighting.

“Currently, the closest planetariums to Sioux Falls are more than 90 miles away, and comparable systems are as far away as Chicago and Denver. This technology investment at the Washington Pavilion will create the most advanced planetarium system, among the best in United States,” says Brandon Hanson, Director of Museums for Washington Pavilion Management, Inc.

Construction will require some closures of the current Wells Fargo CineDome, and those closures will be announced in advance. Installation will take about six months, and the new facility is scheduled to open in summer 2023.

“We imagine stargazing date nights for the couple looking for a unique outing, live space launch viewings for the curious explorer-at-heart and thought-provoking discussions on our place in the universe,” says Madelyn Grogan, Director of Education for Washington Pavilion Management, Inc. “Because of this incredible gift, tens of thousands of children and adults alike will learn about space and space exploration, creating an experience they will never forget.”

The naming rights agreement and “Sweetman Planetarium” name are subject to City Council approval, in accordance with the process for naming City-owned facilities.

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