Transformational Gift Will Create World-Class Planetarium at the Washington Pavilion

October 28, 2022

Sioux Falls, SD — The Washington Pavilion today announced a transformational gift from the Dick and Kathy Sweetman family to create a state-of-the-art planetarium. The gift—the largest single donation from an individual in Washington Pavilion history—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.

“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 one of the most advanced planetariums in the United States,” 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.

“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. 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 for generations to come,” says Dick and Kathy Sweetman.

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 the 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. 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.”

Allocated through their established fund at the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation, the Sweetmans’ approximately $2 million donation also includes funds designated for the planetarium’s ongoing maintenance. The naming rights agreement and “Sweetman Planetarium” name are subject to City Council approval, in accordance with the process for naming City-owned facilities.

For more information, go to WashingtonPavilion.org/Planetarium.

About Washington Pavilion Management, Inc. (WPMI)
Washington Pavilion Management, Inc. is a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and the largest arts organization in the state. The management company oversees and programs two historic City of Sioux Falls facilities: the Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science and the Orpheum Theater Center. The company also provides professional management services, including administration; arts, science and educational programming; ticketing; event management; marketing; and more to other arts and nonprofit organizations. For information, please visit WashingtonPavilion.org.v