Birmingham Southern College transforming beloved planetarium into first of its kind GeoDome

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Southern Environmental Center’s Roald Hazelhoff and Brooke Tanner Battle

Brooke Tanner Battle, a 1996 graduate of Birmingham-Southern College, fondly remembers the old planetarium on the Southern campus.

“BSC is known for its science curriculum and its ability to create doctors. If you were not a pre-med student and not particularly strong in science, you looked hard for an easy alternative.

Astronomy at first glance seemed like it would fit the bill but much to everyone’s chagrin it was pretty hard.

That class exposed us to the planetarium,” stated Battle.

Birmingham Southern
GeoDome on the campus of Birmingham Southern College campus

Built in 1964, the Robert R Meyer Planetarium was the first of its kind in Alabama. It served as an astronomy classroom for BSC students, and as a field trip destination for K-12 schools throughout the State. The retirement of Dr. Bill Boardman & planetarium coordinator Roswitha Becker, combined with aging equipment, led BSC to close the facility in 2009.

This coming April, the upstairs star chamber will re-open its doors to the BSC community & the general public as the first of its kind visual arts theater in Alabama..

The brainchild of BSC Southern Environmental Center’s longtime executive director Roald Hazelhoff, the 46 seat GeoDome will feature a giant floating screen and a 4K projector that provides 40% more color resolution than present HD technology.

According to Hazelhoff, GeoDome incorporates elements of the popular Epcot attraction Soarin’. While, the latter provides visitors with simulated hang glider aerial views of the world, GeoDome’s 4K drone and GoPro film trailers will focus on Alabama.

Discovering Alabama

“Through these films we are going to visually take people to natural wonders like Turkey Creek Nature Preserve and Little River Canyon. Visitors will join kayakers racing down the Mulberry Fork, climbers scaling Sand Mountain, and get a bird’s eye view of Alabama songbirds,” said Hazelhoff.

GeoDome will reverse the former planetarium’s focus on the solar system, and ‘zoom into’ Alabama’s amazing biodiversity. The theater will feature a giant 20-foot screen, surround sound, and stadium seating utilizing re-upholstered chairs from the original star chamber.

Birmingham Southern
Brooke Tanner Battle with her daughter Tanner Battle showing off one of the refurbished star chamber theater seats people can memorialized in the name of a loved one, friend, classmates, or even a special professor.

Battle explained why the new GeoDome is important to her family.

“Thanks to the Southern Environmental Center, I now know about the biodiversity of Alabama, and that it is something that needs to be protected. The way kids take in information today, there is no better way to provide information to them than with a 4K film.

It is always fun to do something different for your kids. We are always looking for ways to entertain and educate them. I can’t wait.”

Support the GeoDome – sponsor a theater seat

In keeping with the Southern Environmental Center’s long tradition of focusing on the three Rs (recycle, reduce, reuse), 46 of the old star chamber seats are being refurbished for use in the GeoDome theater. Through a donation of $500, you can have a theater seat memorialized in the name of a loved one, friend, classmates, or even a special professor.  For details visit: alumni.bsc.edu/growingimpact

Brooke Tanner Battle and Tanner Battle with one of the newly re-upholstered seats

“This is a great re-use of an asset,” added Battle.

As a graduate, it is nice to go back to places you experienced. When things get torn down you lose a little bit of your anchor.”

“Anchor” the new GeoDome today.

 

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Author: Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.