Webber and the Blount County Education Foundation were hosts to a weekend of activities at the planetarium, beginning with a reception on Friday, Jan. 12. The reception was designed not only to introduce the public to the new, renovated facility, but to raise funds to make it even better.
The celestial theater-in-the-round has new, state-of-the-art digital equipment that can show the night sky with a new brilliance. In addition, the seats have been rearranged so no viewer has to watch "upside down." With room for 68 in each show, the viewers all face essentially the same direction. The new facility also has a three-dimensional viewing capability that is unique in public planetariums. An upgraded laser device will enhance the laser-music shows that the facility has become known for around East Tennessee.
The refurbishing cost about $260,000, which Webber said was raised
through private organizations and through regular appropriation and
paid admissions to planetarium. While the price tag may seem high, it
is in reality much less than the actual cost would have been. Webber
managed to work with Konica Minolta, which made the new digital
planetarium device, to make the Heritage Planetarium a "beta site" for
the company. They will do testing, company demonstrations and
Two other primary contractors in the project were Audio Visual Imagineering and East Coast Controls.
The new equipment also means starting a new library of shows from scratch. Monies raised from the re-opening weekend will be used to purchase another digital show, which Webber previewed for the audience last Friday. Fridays event and the weekend public viewings were great successes, with Webber having to add shows to accommodate the crowds.