The Fleischmann Atmospherium-Planetarium, later called the Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center, was built in 1963. It was the first atmospherium-planetarium of its kind in the world, with the ability to simulate both day and night conditions and a full range of atmospheric phenomena, including cloud formations, thunderstorms and rainbows with an optical device to project images of atmospheric phenomena inside the dome. It was the first planetarium in the nation to feature a 360-degree projector capable of providing horizon-to-horizon images and through time-lapse photography showing an entire day's weather in a few minutes.
Both the design and function of the planetarium reflect the futuristic focus of the space age during which it was built. Its Populuxe style of architecture is characterized by designs that depict motion, such as boomerangs, flying saucers, atoms, and parabola. Reno architect Raymond Hellman designed a striking hyperbolic paraboloid structure in which form follows function.
Max C. Fleischmann, a yeast and gin industry tycoon, moved to Nevada from California in 1935 to avoid income and inheritance taxes and further his philanthropic activities. Following his death in 1951, through 1980, the Max C. Fleischmann Foundation funded over $19 million in building projects on campus, including the planetarium, named in honor of Fleischmann’s parents according to his wishes.
Originally, the Fleischmann Atmospherium-Planetarium was under the auspices of the Desert Research Institute, which closed it in September 1976 after maintenance costs became unsustainable. Soon after the closure, a “Save the Stars” fund drive chaired by Clark J. Guild was successful in raising $350,000 to qualify for an additional grant for $450,000 from the Fleischmann Foundation, and the building was quickly repaired and reopened. The building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1994. In December of 2002, a proposal for a parking garage on the site brought a threat of demolition. Once again supporters rallied and the building was saved. It is now part of the University of Nevada Extended Studies division and serves over 44,000 visitors a year.