Delay the demolition

Where do you want to go today?

The list of local educational facilities to which Mrs. Wannateachem in Sparks can take her fourth-grade class includes just a few top-flight places: Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts, May Museum and the Fleischmann Planetarium.

If you strike that last one, there’s even less to do here. S’alright. San Francisco’s not that far away, and kids love the old Exploratorium there. Or for cutting edge stuff, you could hop over to San Jose and visit The Tech Museum of Innovation, a glorious monument to science and technology that’s helping revitalize San Jose’s struggling downtown.

Hey, it’s only 10 hours round-trip or so. Why not?

After all, who could really expect a tiny little hole-in-the-wall burg like Reno to offer star shows or large-format science films? To offer free viewings of the stars with a high-powered telescope on Friday nights? To keep the community informed of goings-on in the universe beyond the university?

Apparently, no one. The University of Nevada, Reno, wants to tear down the Fleischmann Planetarium in June—three years earlier than planned. Taking the University of Nevada, Reno, to the next level evidently means expanding parking for sports and events—the kinds of things people really want. It’s supply and demand, baby, so stiffen that upper lip and get ready to be slapped around by that invisible hand of the market.

Save the planetarium? Too late. The bulldozers are already rumbling.

But can doom be staved off long enough so that the planetarium folks can move their projectors and star slides to a promised new regional science center?

That’s all anyone could ask. Give them some time. Find the planetarium some corporate sponsors, if that’s what it takes. Remember, the planetarium isn’t run by a foundation or board of directors, as are Sierra Arts and the Nevada Museum of Art. It’s run by a tiny staff employed by the University of Nevada, Reno, a public land-grant institution. It’s ours. We own it, people, and we elect a Board of Regents to make the kinds of decisions that fit with what the people of Nevada envision for our institution of higher learning.

We’re just making a plea to a few folks who can do something, like the cities of Reno and Sparks, who’ve said they support a regional science facility in their respective front yards. Or to President John Lilley, who’s been committed to science and technology enterprises in the past—when they’ve been profitable.

When Lilley was back at Penn State Erie, he helped secure $30 million in funding for a Research and Economic Development Center on 200 acres of land dubbed Knowledge Park. Yeah, it smacks of a sell-out to corporate and governmental interests. What’s new?

President Lilley himself once told the RN&R that, as a land grant institution, the university needs to be responsive to the demands of its community.

Oh look, here’s a demand now.