YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Repairs may take some for the Ward Beecher Planetarium at Youngstown State University, but the planetarium’s most valuable equipment was spared.
Flames broke out in a section of the roof Monday afternoon as crews were repairing a leak.
Firefighters literally had to peel back a big section of the metal roof area to hose down the flames and smoke. In the process, water was sprayed all over the inside.
Planetarium engineer Curt Spivey was not there when the building was being evacuated, but he arrived minutes later.
“I hustled back up here just as firefighters were peeling off the top edge, and we could see the flames and smoke coming out,” he said.
Fortunately, Spivey says he checked first thing Tuesday morning and found the “Starball,” which shows the images of the stars and planets on the dome roof, and the computerized video system were not damaged. The two systems are worth over $1 million.
“They’re probably gonna need a little work, but the two major systems are still intact, and we’re gonna have to let stuff dry out to make sure what else can be saved,” Spivey said.
While the dome may need to be replaced, administrators are working to find alternative spaces for classes.
“Thanks to the pandemic, we already know how to handle classes remotely. The last resort will be going to an all-remote learning for that particular section,” Spivey said.
The planetarium will be out of service for perhaps a number of months. Public programs will be canceled, possibly through the end of its schedule through May 2023 — including the Rock The Dome programs.
The building will be closed until further notice.