"Lift Off" Campaign To Help Save Planetarium

By KBJR News 1

September 16, 2010 Updated Sep 16, 2010 at 8:34 AM CDT

But with continued cuts in state aid to schools... the future of the planetarium is uncertain.

Joel Carlson has worked as director of the Paulucci Space Theater since 2007, and says the idea for a planetarium came from a past president of the Hibbing Community College.

"He was a big supporter of planetariums. So for many years he worked to get a planetarium here in Hibbing," said Carlson.

The work paid off in the early 70s when Iron Range entrepreneur Jeno Paulucci offered to help fund the planetarium.

Since then, it has been utilized not just by the college, but the entire community.

The 40 ft dome at the Paulucci Space Theater in Hibbing is the only one of it's kind on the Iron Range. And that makes in a valuable teaching tool for academics across the region.

Of the 4,000 some visitors to the space theater every year, more than 60% of them are school groups.

"They love it. They come in here and it's a "wow" to them, it's something new to them. They really enjoy coming here," said Carlson.

Hard times and big funding cuts across the academic world in the past few months however have left the space theater in a bind.

"At the maximum, it's been as high as 100 thousand dollars a year that we have underwritten the space theater. Now we have significantly reduced that, but we are not in a position to continue to underwrite the theater as we had been," said Hibbing Community College PROVOST, Kenneth Simberg.

In an effort to keep the space theater alive, the planetarium is holding a "Lift off: Save the Paulucci Space Theater Campaign".

Beginning September 18th through the 26th activities and movie showings will be free to the public, including a brand new film.

"We are bringing in a new film called Dinosaurs: Giants of Patagonia. It's a place where so far we have found the biggest dinosaurs," said Carlson.

Simberg says many people have been supportive in keeping the space theater operating.

Support that is desperately needed for the theaters future.

"We're positive that it will have a good effect and good things will come out of it.We value the planetarium and we certainly want to see it kept operational," said Simberg.

For an entire list of activities for the fundraising campaign, you can log on to http://www.spacetheater.mnscu.edu/.