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Weddings, food service deal for Vanderbilt Museum

Suffolk’s Vanderbilt Museum will reopen its planetarium March

Suffolk’s Vanderbilt Museum will reopen its planetarium March 15. The planetarium will feature new shows produced by planetariums as far away as Great Britain and China, as well as high-definition video from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and other satellites. Credit: Handout

Suffolk County’s Vanderbilt Museum, after years of trying, has finally made a $1 million deal to bring in an outside contractor to hold weddings and provide food service at the 43-acre Centerport complex.

Museum officials have put before county lawmakers a five-year deal with the Thatched Cottage in Centerport, beginning in January with three five-year renewal options. The deal would guarantee 18 weddings a year, which would bring the museum $135,000 in site fees in the first year. The deal also relieves the museum of the $30,000 annual cost of maintaining the tent kept on site for such events.

Under the contract’s terms, the caterer can open as many as two snack bars in the newly-refurbished planetarium, and a bistro at the museum’s carriage house theater, which would generate another $24,000 in annual revenue.

Lance Reinheimer, acting museum director, said the deal also calls for the caterer to provide the museum with free food for three fundraising events each year, worth another $30,000 a year, spend at least $13,000 on advertising for public and private catered events, and put out at least 4 million fliers to market the catering and concessions.

“This is huge,” said Joseph Dujmic, a Vanderbilt board vice president who was active in negotiating the deal. “It starts to give us new resources to grow the budget.”

The museum, which had its endowment socked by the Wall Street meltdown, is finally regaining its footing with temporary financing from the county, new money from the hotel/motel room tax, and in-house efforts.

The catering deal, approved by the legislature’s parks committee last week, goes before the full legislature Tuesday, along with a resolution to accept an $850,000 donation over a decade to name the planetarium after IGA supermarket magnate Charles Reichert and his wife, Helen.

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