Built in 1967, the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts is an architectural icon in downtown Reno, thanks to the golden geodesic dome that tops the structure, originally nicknamed “the Golden Turtle.”
Inspired by Buckminster Fuller’s innovative geodesic dome design, the gold-anodized domed roof is the crown jewel of the theater. It was designed by Don Richter, a student of Fuller’s, after the theater’s planning board was inspired by the geodesic dome at the Casa Mañana Theater in Fort Worth, Texas.
The Pioneer center was originally planned to be named the Apollo Theater, but was renamed after the statue of an American pioneer family that stood in front of the Old State Building, which was then located at the site of the current theater. This statue can now be seen next to the entrance to the center’s Pioneer Underground venue.
Aside from the dome, one of the most interesting features of this theater is that the main floor is below ground, and the balcony is slightly above the ground level. If you look at the southeast corner of the theater grounds, you can see the large elevators used to bring equipment to stage level.
Know Before You Go
The theater hosts many events throughout the year. There is also a comedy club, Pioneer Underground, which performs on the weekends but is in a smaller space near the main theater. The dome is always available to see. Standing on the outdoor area on the east side of Virginia Street will provide the best view.