Salt Lake County officials want the governor to help replace the Hansen Planetarium with a science center they hope will inspire young people to excel in school.
The county isn't asking for money, but it wants Gov. Norm Bangerter to help select a committee that will make the new center possible."We want an exhibit hall to showcase the biomedical research and the other private industry developments in this area," Marlon R. Berrett, chairman of a task force studying the future of the Planetarium, said Tuesday. "These will be hands-on exhibits."
Berrett, County Commissioner Bart Barker and Planetarium Director Von Del Chamberlain met with Bangerter Tuesday to discuss their plans for a downtown center. Bangerter, promising to cooperate, said he would ask state Science Adviser Randy Moon to help choose a committee.
Berrett said the center should house an I-Max theater, which projects specially made films across a wide screen to give viewers the impression they are part of the scene being projected. Such theaters are popular in other cities.
Chamberlain said such a center will foster a better appreciation for science among young people.
"We have essentially an illiterate society, scientifically," Chamberlain said. "This will be a place where people do science and learn how meaningful it can be."
Berrett said many Utahns are unaware of the state's rich scientific heritage. "A lot of people don't know that more money is being spent on private research here than by universities," he said.
The county currently spends about $700,000 yearly subsidizing the planetarium. Berrett said the new center could be self-sufficient, especially if an I-Max theater is included. Barker said he hoped local high-technology and aerospace corporations would donate exhibits to the center "for good will and for publicity."
Barker said the county has yet to choose a site for center. The science center originally was considered as part of the proposed Salt Palace expansion and the construction of a new basketball arena downtown, but members of committees studying those issues didn't give the idea much attention.