RHINELANDER - Frank Kovac's dream of owning a planetarium led him to take on a lot of debt over the years. Over time, the future of Rhinelander's Kovac Planetarium has been uncertain, until now.
A "Closed" sign now sits permanently on the door to Rhinelander's Kovac Planetarium.
"Officially, I'm closing the planetarium," said Kovac.
About 10 years ago, Kovac's dream of opening his own planetarium became a reality. Since then, he's been working to keep his dream shining bright.
"I'm sad about it, but I'm not to the point where I'm going to let it get me down. I'm very grateful for the years I've had here," said Kovac.
It all started when Kovac's dad showed him a telescope. In 1997, he started building the planetarium. Ten years later he opened the doors.
In the years since, thousands of people have learned about astronomy and witnessed the world's largest rotating mechanical planetarium in action.
"It's a one-of-a-kind show and facility, and I consider it a small museum here in the Northwoods," Kovac said.
But now, Kovac can no longer afford to pay the fees that would keep the planetarium open.
"I put about $250,000 of my own money into this over the past 20 years," he said.
He says it costs about $10,000 a year just to operate the planetarium. Kovac had to get a full-time job to keep his home and help pay the planetarium's mortgage. Even though some darkness has overtaken this dream, Kovac says it's one he hopes will keep on shining.
"I have a lot of memories that will continue in my life from this, and I can see something happening [that's] good."
Kovac says he has high hopes for what's ahead. Ideally, he would like someone with knowledge of astronomy to buy Kovac Planetarium and keep it running.