MANHATTAN, Kan. (WIBW) -- After years of planning, preparation and construction, the Flint Hills Discovery Center in Manhattan is now open for business.
Visitors started streaming in the doors as soon as the doors opened on Saturday morning.
Governor Sam Brownback and Manhattan city officials were on hand for a ribbon cutting ceremony and dedication.
The interactive science and history learning center, located on 3rd Street, is part of a major redevelopment effort in downtown Manhattan and it is designed to develop tourism across the 22 counties that make up the Flint Hills region.
Visitors started lining up early Saturday morning to get their passes to go inside the Discovery Center and crowds continued to filter through the facility throughout the day. They had a chance to tour the 35,000 square foot facility and see its permanent and temporary exhibits for the first time as well as the triple high definition theater.
"I never thought something like this would be in Manhattan. This is awesome, great for the community. We got up early to come here today," said Mary Lowe, a visitor from Junction City,
"One of the things that we represent in Kansas is the last stand of the Tallgrass Prairie. We’ve got it and we’re going to protect it. We’re going to celebrate it and we’re going to show it off. And we’re going to make it such that people can celebrate it and enjoy it and understand it better... Congratulations to the Flint Hills and to the people that have done this. To the city of Manhattan, to the County of Riley and the entire Flint Hills region, well done," Governor Brownback told the crowd during the ceremony.
"We really need to thank the state for their support. What you see today here in the plaza as well as the Discovery Center building itself was funded primarily with STAR bonds and that’s a state funding mechanism and so they really stepped up to designate this a STAR bond district and they have made a big part of this possible for our community, our region and our state," added Ron Fehr, City Manager of Manhattan.
"The building itself will be an icon for decades to come. New structures of this significance are rarely created and when they are, they are seen as representational of the values of a whole community or region. Dedicated to the mission to inspire, interpret, explore and preserve the Flint Hills of Kansas, the Discovery Center will serve as the next great attraction, drawing people to experience our story," former Manhattan mayor Bruce Snead said. Snead is now the president of the Flint Hills Discovery Center Foundation.
The Flint Hills Discovery Center will be open 363 days a year. Officials estimate that 60,000 people will visit the center over the next year.