MUNCIE, Ind. – An Indianapolis entrepreneur who thinks big has committed to making Ball State University’s planetarium the largest and most sophisticated structure of its kind in the state. The new Ball State Planetarium will be one of the most advanced in the country.
Charlie Brown, a 1971 alumnus and co-owner of Southern Bells, a chain of Taco Bell and KFC restaurants, sees his nearly $2.2 million contribution to his alma mater as a way to get students interested in science and technology and give to the community at large. The gift represents nearly half of the total needed to fulfill the ambitious $4.6 million construction plan.
“My goal is to get the biggest and best planetarium we can at Ball State to serve this area of the country. My hope is the community — especially youth — as well as the university students will have an incredible resource here,” Brown said.
The new Ball State Planetarium, with its advanced technology and physical capacity, will be a significant community asset with educational partnership opportunities with area schools and youth organizations. It also will serve as a tourist destination and a resource for scientists everywhere and have the capacity to be a destination for the nation’s planetarium professionals.
“A planetarium can expand one’s horizons a billion fold,” said Ron Kaitchuck, director of the planetarium at Ball State. An outstanding educational and scientific research resource, it also holds the distinction of training more planetarium directors than any other institution, he said.
The new planetarium will encompass a free-standing theater with a prominent campus location off Riverside Avenue. The new facility will feature a 52-foot diameter dome, making it among the largest in the Midwest. It will be one of the top 10 university planetariums in the United States. From a technology standpoint, the planetarium will be ranked with the most advanced, even among the great planetariums in the country.
The university will seek additional donor participation to fund the remainder of the project, which should open in 2014.