ALLENTOWN, PA. May 9, 2023 — Today, Da Vinci Science Center topped off another major milestone in the construction of the new Da Vinci Science Center at PPL Pavilion. Trustees, staff, elected officials, donors, partners, and community members came together to watch the placement of the final steel beam on the building structure.
The topping off tradition is rooted in the Scandinavian religious rite of placing a tree atop a new building to appease the tree-dwelling spirits displaced in its construction. Today, the topping off – or topping out — ceremony takes place when the final structural beam is raised into place, completing the building’s frame.
“The topping off is always an important milestone for the construction team. We are especially proud to raise the final beam on the new Da Vinci Science Center at PPL Pavilion because this project is a central piece of downtown Allentown’s revitalization,” said Greg Butz, President & CEO, Alvin H. Butz, Inc. He is also a member of the Science Center’s Campaign Leadership Committee, helping to fundraise for the new building.
The ceremony brought together staff, board, donors and other community stakeholders to sign the beam, leaving their permanent mark on what is considered a major investment in the future of Allentown, and the Lehigh Valley.
Vincent Sorgi, President and CEO of PPL Corporation, the Campaign Leadership Committee Chair, former Chairman of the Board for the Science Center and a long-time supporter of the organization’s mission, noted that PPL’s involvement with the project both as title sponsor and in program support “demonstrates our ongoing commitment to building a strong community by supporting equitable, engaging, high-quality educational opportunities for all students and helping to prepare the next generation of STEM workers.”
Da Vinci Science Center at PPL Pavilion will be three stories, with over 30,000 square feet of exhibit space where visitors of all ages will be immersed in experiences ranging from the inner workings of the human body to the complex relationship of humanity and the natural world.
One of the signature experiences, the Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) My Body exhibit, is being developed collaboratively with LVHN clinical and education staff and will highlight the latest advancements in healthcare and medicine, including STEM career pathways within rapidly expanding healthcare companies throughout the Lehigh Valley.
“At LVHN, there is nothing more central to our mission than to help every member of our community live their healthiest life, and we believe the LVHN My Body exhibit is emblematic of that commitment,” said Brian A. Nester, DO, MBA, President and Chief Executive Officer, LVHN. “Not only will this facility educate people about their health, it will entice children and their parents to explore career options in health care at a time when there is a growing need for health care professionals nationwide.”
The new science center also will feature three other main exhibit areas: Curiosity Hall, Science in the Making and Lehigh River Watershed, as well as the Da Vinci STEAM Learning Center, the incubator for onsite and community-based STEAM programming – the integration of the Arts with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.
“In addition to being a major attraction for the region, the new Da Vinci Science Center at PPL Pavilion will be a regional center of excellence for STEAM education, and a workforce development partner to area businesses for high demand fields,” said Lin Erickson, Executive Director and CEO. “The science center will be a key contributor to the local and regional economy both directly and indirectly by helping to inspire and educate the next generation of engineers, scientists, innovators, and programmers. We can’t wait for the new science center to open its doors and provide access to educational resources for the 17,000 students in the Allentown School District as well as those throughout the region.”
Da Vinci Science Center at PPL Pavilion Topping Off Celebration added a twist to the tradition of decorating the final beam with an artificial pine tree in homage to the Scandinavian tradition. Passersby can look up and catch a glimpse of a North American River Otter donning a hard hat alongside the tree to represent the live otters that will be residents in the new science center.
The Science Center has assembled a talented team to design the new downtown facility, including MKSD Architects, Barry Isset & Associates, HB Engineers, EMS Consulting, Ideum and Roto Design Firm. Alvin H. Butz is the construction manager; Gross McGinley, the project attorneys; and PFM, financial advisors. Financing is provided by Fulton Bank. Da Vinci Science Center at PPL Pavilion is slated to open in spring of 2024. Photo by LBJ Media