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Washington Pavilion receives $2 million donation for new planetarium

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Sioux Falls Washington Pavilion
Photo showing an example of a planetarium, provided by the Sioux Falls Washington Pavilion.

The Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls will be expanding the Wells Fargo CineDome into both a theater and a planetarium thanks to an almost $2 million donation from the Dick and Kathy Sweetman family.

This is the largest donation from an individual in the Washington Pavilion’s history, staff said. The Sweetman family has made other donations to the pavilion in past years.

“They have continued to support the Washington Pavilion regularly over all these years, and we’re grateful for that,” said Darrin Smith, Washington Pavilion president and CEO. “To have the Sweetman family make such a significant investment in the Washington Pavilion is unprecedented.”

The future Wells Fargo CineDome & Sweetman Planetarium will open summer 2023 and will take about six to eight months to complete. The CineDome will experience some closures during this time that will be announced in advance.

This will be the first planetarium in South Dakota, according to Brandon Hanson, director of museums for the Washington Pavilion. He said the pavilion will be partnering with Cosm, a company that specializes in creating immersive environments for entertainment, education, attractions and more.

"It’s very exciting for us, and this technological investment at the Washington Pavilion is the most advanced planetarium that exists today," Hanson said. "And it will be right here in Sioux Falls for our community."

New technology for the planetarium includes a high-resolution projector, a new dome screen with invisible seams, a 5.1 surround sound system and new lighting.

Washington Pavilion Director of Education Madelyn Grogan said the project will also help bring children and students of all ages a new and exciting educational experience.

“Because of this incredible gift, tens of thousands of children and adults throughout our community will learn about space exploration, creating memories and experiences they will never forget,” she said.

Grogan added the pavilion is planning special events at the planetarium like “date nights” under the stars and live space launches.

Kathy Sweetman said she and her husband had visited several planetariums across the country and thought it was something that could benefit Sioux Falls.

“Hopefully it will be used and enjoyed by many people,” she said.

Dick Sweetman said they wanted to give back to the community that they had spent their whole lives in and hoped it would inspire students in the Sioux Falls area.

“I hope this project will spur an interest in the sciences and technology, and [that] students of all ages will get a real bump out of it,” he said.

Jordan is a senior English and journalism major at SDSU in Brookings. She is from De Smet, South Dakota. She is based out of the Sioux Falls studio.