Previously promised renovations to UW Oshkosh’s Buckstaff Planetarium are on hold indefinitely according to UWO physics and astronomy professor Barton Pritzl due to the current budget situation at UWO as well as the new UW System restructuring.
“There were plans to renovate the Buckstaff, to bring in a new system, to make the planetarium a little bit more up-to-date,” Pritzl said. “With the merger taking place and with the budget considerations, it was kind of felt that at this point in time, it might not be best to have expenses for two planetariums.”
According to the UWO physics and astronomy department, while the planetarium renovation is on hold, people interested should see the Barlow Planetarium in Menasha, Wisconsin.
In addition to the renovations, the physics and astronomy department was working on construction of a new astronomy observatory on the roof of Halsey Science Center to create more opportunities for research and exploration at UWO.
According to an article posted in the Oshkosh Northwestern in 2017, UW System senior architect Cathy Weiss said the 1,500-square-foot educational and entertainment facility has not been renovated since it opened in 1963.
“The project will be financed by taxpayer dollars,” Weiss said. “It will be bid in February and construction should be completed in the third quarter of 2018.”
Pritzl said the planetarium could still be running.
“They haven’t run shows there in a long time because of various structural renovations that needed to be made,” Pritzl said. “As far as I know, yes it could be [running].”
Pritzl said the Barlow Planetarium, which is located on UW-Fox Valley’s campus, is very popular already.
“The Barlow Planetarium is very well established,” Pritzl said. “They already have a lot of traffic, they have a lot of people that already go to their planetarium.
Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Outreach Director Samara Hamze said the renovations need to be made due to safety concerns for the public.
“The first reason [Buckstaff] needs renovations is asbestos,” Hamze said. “It wasn’t a problem until the grades got worse and worse over time, we had to close it down for public safety.”
Hamze said the money was supposed to come from the UW System rather than UWO, which forced UWO Chancellor Andrew Leavitt to make a decision.
“The budget that we got from the UW System was for $900,000, to move the asbestos, to make the renovations,” Hamze said. “The chancellor then rightly said, ‘Is this worth the tax payers’ money?’ and so then the renovations were put on hold.”
Hamze said that while the renovations are put on hold, it was decided they will be made in the future.
“It was ultimately decided that yes, this is a worthwhile thing to renovate,” Hamze said. “But not strictly as a planetarium, but as a multi-purpose space for students.”
Hamze said the plans are already in place, but changes need to be on hold for the time being.
“We’ve got the carpet picked out, we have all of the plans in place,” Hamze said. “But with everything that has been going on with the budget and the merger, the deadline for this has been pushed back.”