Area where restoration work is being carried out on YSU's planetarium, which was damaged by fire.

youngstown, ohio (WKBN) – Construction crews are beginning to restore the Ward Beecher Planetarium at Youngstown State University after a devastating fire more than a year ago.

A fire that struck the Ward Beecher Planetarium in January 2023 leaves charred wood on the roof. But now, scaffolding and construction equipment offer a glimmer of hope that a brighter future is just around the corner.

“It was heartbreaking to see,” said Dr. Patrick Darrell, director of the Ward Beecher Planetarium. It's just sinking,” he said.

Construction has been underway for about a week to replace the roof and dome and reinstall audio and video equipment, with students expected to return by the fall.

Problems such as insurance delays and handling of the delicate equipment housed inside were encountered in getting the project off the ground.

“A lot of these are custom equipment, and that's part of the reason it took us so long to get to this point. A lot of the stuff we're putting back together isn't really off-the-shelf. '' said Mr. Darrell.

With the planetarium out of commission, administrators were forced to scramble for new lesson plans and class locations in order to secure one of the most versatile facilities. Missing out on special events like next month's solar eclipse is especially devastating.

“We actually have an all-sky show about the solar eclipse that we specifically purchased in 2017 that we can use. It's a once-in-a-lifetime event and we can't share it with the people here.” Planetarium engineer said Kurt Spivey.

Once complete, $1.5 million worth of improvements will put the new planetarium light years ahead of its predecessor.

“I can't wait to get people out there again and show them the wonders of the universe,” Darrell said.

Teachers say they are already amazed at the speed at which construction workers are working. They say people will start noticing that work on the roof will begin within a few days.

After students return in the fall, they hope to be able to resume public shows by October, conditions permitting.

https://www.wkbn.com/news/local-news/youngstown-news/where-work-stands-to-repair-ysus-fire-damaged-planetarium/ Area where restoration work is being carried out on YSU's planetarium, which was damaged by fire.

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