MANHATTAN, Kan. (WIBW) -- Members of the media along with city and state officials and those in the community who have played an integral part in the making of the Flint Hills Discovery Center got a first look inside the facility Thursday ahead of its grand opening next weekend.
As staff members fielded questions during the media event, visitors got to explore Manhattan’s new science and history learning center and see its interactive exhibits.
The $25 million facility is part of the Little Apple's downtown redevelopment
"The Flint Hills is the primary area of Kansas that we’ve been focusing our efforts on for tourism development. Now we have a facility that people can come to really understand the value of this landscape in which we live. It will help be an opportunity for folks that want to come to the region and learn and then hopefully go out and explore all of the different experiences that you can have in the Flint Hills but also as an educational tool so hopefully we can continue to preserve this special place for generations to come," said Becky Blake, the Tourism Director for the State of Kansas.
"It’s an entry way not only into our community but into the entire Flint Hills region. We’re just so pleased to be the starting point for your experience when you come to Manhattan, when you come to experience the Flint Hills. We want the visitor to come here first. We’re estimating that the first year, we’ll have about 60,000 people come through those doors so that will be a big impact," added Karen Hibbard, Vice President of the Manhattan Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Between 1,000-1,500 people are expected to come through the Flint Hills Discovery Center during its grand opening on April 14 and it will all be free to the public, thanks to ESB Financial.
Larie Schoap, Vice President of ESB Financial, told WIBW: "The Flint Hills mean everything to us for those of us who were born and raised in it so to get to be a part of that opening day is just fabulous for us. We’re thrilled for the city of Manhattan and we’re especially thrilled for all of us that have grown up in the Flint Hills. It’s almost indescribable here. I’ve been through it several times and every time I see something different. It is top notch like the quality of the Smithsonian Institute if not even better than that and it truly tells the story of the Flint Hills. Having this is like an anchor to describe what it’s all about and right here, it’s anchored in Manhattan."
"We know that we’re Kansas’ next great tourist attraction and we just really want to have everyone whether you are from this region or especially if you are not from this region to come have a chance to experience this wonderful place," said Melissa Kirkwood, Development Officer for the Flint Hills Discovery Center.
13 News will give viewers an extended look inside the facility on Thursday, April 12, 2012 at 7:30 PM during a special program called "Tribute to a Treasure" on WIBW-TV 13.