JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4)– In Jefferson County, a building that has been shuttered for a decade could have new life. A Lakewood High School alum wants to reopen the old planetarium.
Ariel Manzanares-Scisney fell in love with space early in elementary school, now he’s on a mission to save the building where he fell in love.
“This was the first place I ever saw the whole night sky. The whole Milky Way galaxy, all 6,000 some-odd stars in the night sky. And it was mind blowing,” Manzanares-Scisney said.
In 1963, Jefferson County Schools gathered enough money to build a planetarium. Eventually it was named after Robert H. Johnson, the superintendent.
For decades, kids from pre-kindergarten through sixth grade would come for field trips. Even kids from other districts would make the trip to the location on Kipling Street just south of Sixth Avenue.
“I keep passing by here and I’m like, ‘Why isn’t it open? I never see people here,’” Manzanares-Scisney said. “I have these memories and I have dreams of what it could be based on my prior experience.”
After graduating from Lakewood High School, Manzanares-Scisney graduated from University of Colorado Boulder with a degree in astrophysics in three years. He worked at the Fiske Planetarium in college. His studies took him to Boston and Harvard University before he came home.
“We can put so many amazing things here, it doesn’t just have to be, you look at the night sky and gawk at that, we can fly to any planet, any star,” he said of the potential. “I just love this place so much and I want it to be open to the community long after I’ve passed away.”
He’s started an online fundraising campaign. With a lofty price tag, he’s shooting for the stars.
“We need to bring this back to the community,” he said. “There’s no reason it shouldn’t be open because it can lead to such grander things in the long-term.“