Jackson leaders say fundraising for the Russel C. Davis Planetarium renovation is running slightly ahead of schedule in spite of the pandemic.
The planetarium closed its doors more than two years ago. During an exclusive tour shortly after, the dated exhibits and water damage caused by a leaking roof were evident.
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“Kids would get off the elevator and ‘Oooh and ahh,’ and that’s always kind of bolstered my plans to get this place to where we want it to be,” said Planetarium Manager Mike Williams.
Williams is concentrating now on work happening outside. Along with Deputy Cultural Services Director David Lewis, he is raising money to remodel the 40-year-old attraction.
“We received a wonderful amount from the Hinds County delegation, from the state of Mississippi, and we’ve been applying for grants, and we’re also talking to businesses about sponsorship, as well. It is slower, but we’re still very hopeful,” Lewis said.
Lewis hopes the new planetarium will include an open-air learning space and an after-hours learning center for corporate meetings.
“Typically, these kinds of facilities don’t generate a lot of revenue, however, that is part of our plan sustainability,” Williams said.
But in a city struggling to cover infrastructure repairs and fight crime, there are naysayers.
“This is going to happen. We’ve already raised 25% of committed funds and at any point we don’t reach a goal, we will pivot and there will be a planetarium,” Lewis said.
Lewis and Williams visited some of the best space exhibits in the country to get ideas for the planetarium, but they said they’ll scale back if they have to before they’ll call the project off. Williams said the goal of a new facility by the city’s bicentennial in spring of 2022 is