A $3.35-million boost from the federal government in the 2017 budget has allowed the TELUS World of Science to start renovations on the Margaret Zeidler Star Theatre beginning next week.
The entire inside dome will need to be taken down and the giant screen that is water-stained and dirty will need to be replaced. Closer to Earth, stained and ripped carpets and seating will also go.
“We have low-resolution projectors and the images look kind of washed out,” Frank Florian, director of planetarium and space sciences, said. “They still do the job for the most part but the wow factor just isn’t there.”
The upgraded theatre boasts a 10K resolution screen, the first planetarium in the world to have that clear of a picture. To put it into perspective, the TELUS World of Science IMAX theatre screen has a resolution of 4K.
“When this new theatre opens and people walk in their mouths are going to drop,” Florian said. “It’s going to make them feel like they’re in these environments.”
Florian likened it to being inside a video game. He said it allows people to go places they never thought possible.
“This new technology can take you anywhere in the universe, whether it’s outer space, down to the minuscule parts of an atom,” he said.
The upgrades are part of Phase 2 of the Aurora Project.
Phase 1 saw the completion of the Purple Pear cafeteria.
Other expansion plans include The Arctic Gallery, which will focus on Arctic research and education, as well as reconstruction of the Hole Family and Allard Family galleries, and Space Place and Discoveryland.
“If we are going to go forward we need to keep adapting and growing and doing things that make the facility sustainable and relevant,” TWOS CEO Alan Nursall said.
According to Nursall, the facility is also facing capacity issues. Discoveryland often has a line because there’s just no space and it’s become a victim of its own success.
“The Aurora Project is all about making sure our infrastructure is stable and solid and making sure our science experiences are challenging, exciting and inspirational and meet the needs and demands of our growing city,” he said.
Right now, Nursall said the project is about half funded, including $12 million from the City of Edmonton, and $1 million has been raised through donors. The group is also working with the provincial government in hopes of securing funding.