Flandrau closing planetarium, science exhibits

By Evan Pellegrino
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 2, 2005

Center closing for Rio Nuevo revamp

The Flandrau Science Center will be closing its science and space-oriented exhibits, planetarium presentations and theater shows in order to focus on its future location at the planned downtown UA science center.

Flandrau Beyond Tomorrow is a plan to revamp the current center and create a new facility that will be part of the Rio Nuevo Downtown Redevelopment project.

Flandrau, located on the UA Mall at North Cherry Avenue and East University Boulevard "will suspend regular operations" beginning Tuesday, according to a press release.

The science center will use the "year of prototype development" to focus on planning and testing out future exhibits and theater shows for the UA's future Rio Nuevo Science building, according to a press release.

"It's going to be a mess for awhile," said Rob Vugteveen, director of marketing and outreach for the center. Flandrau is going to become an indoor construction zone as it goes through a "complete reconfiguration."

The Arizona Board of Regents and the city of Tucson have given the go-ahead and funding for Flandrau to begin working on new exhibits, Vugteveen said. "This is a necessary step for the downtown center."

Flandrau plans to use its current location to reach out to the public for input on what the community wants from the proposed downtown center.

"We will spend the next year gathering information for our regional residents and organizations and explore creative and effective ways for the new science center to serve the community," said Alexis R. Faust, executive director of Flandrau, in a press release.

In order to get opinions on what the new science center should offer, Flandrau will host future events and discussions with the community during the year of planning, according to the release.

When the center reopens Sept. 1 it will house "a set of prototype exhibits and planetarium programs for the public to experience and evaluate" for use at the downtown center.

At that time, Flandrau will open its doors to introduce the community to the new programs and concepts as well as take input from visitors.

When Flandrau reopens, it will also provide Tucsonans a chance to test out exhibits and give feedback, said natural resources senior Nicole Dinardo, an employee at Flandrau.

The UA's downtown science center, a building that has been conceptualized as a bridge over Interstate 10, will connect both sides of the redeveloping Rio Nuevo District.

Plans for the downtown center are still in the works and a cost has not yet been determined. "We're working like it's for sure," Vugteveen said.

The downtown science center is expected to be complete by "2009-ish," Dinardo said.

Dinardo said her job, as well as other student jobs currently held at Flandrau, "won't be in existence," when Flandrau closes its exhibitsDuring the year of construction, Flandrau will be turning itself "inside out," holding events out in the community like "star parties" and "portable planetarium shows," Vugteveen said.

According to the press release, the Flandrau Observatory will remain open with its current viewing schedule throughout the hiatus.

The Mineral Museum in Flandrau's basement will also remain open, Vugteveen said.

The Flandrau science center and planetarium opened to the public in 1975. When the center re-opens in a year it will remain open until the completion of the new downtown center. At that point the university will determine a new purpose for the current Flandrau building on campus, Vugteveen said.