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Antelope Island State Park breaks ground on new visitor and learning center expansion

By Rob Nielsen - | Jul 10, 2024

Rob Nielsen, Standard-Examiner

Antelope Island State Park representatives, state officials and other interested parties enthusiatically break ground on a major expansion to the Antelope Island State Park visitor and learning center Tuesday, July 9, 2024.

ANTELOPE ISLAND STATE PARK -- A long-desired expansion at Antelope State Park is finally under way.

Tuesday morning, state and local officials were filled with excitement as they held a groundbreaking ceremony featuring several speakers for an addition that will expand the park's existing visitor and learning center from 5,600 square feet to more than 27,000 square feet. The expansion is expected to be finished by October 2025.

During the groundbreaking ceremony, Park Manager Wendy Wilson said it's an exciting time in the park's history.

"This new learning and visitor center is going to be incredible," she said. "For the past probably eight years, we have had to change how we operate the current visitors center."

She said the growing popularity of Antelope Island State Park has actually inhibited its role as an educational outlet, especially for youths across the state.

"When I first started, we were seeing 250,000-300,000 visitors every year, and a number of those were students -- K-12 -- that would come into the visitors center," she said. "We would give them some education, they'd watch a film, we would do some one-on-one with them. About 8 years ago, we had to stop that because our visitation grew so high that we couldn't host schools and our general visitors in the same building. That was a real bummer that we had to pull the kids out of that visitors center."

Wilson said the additional space will allow K-12 groups back into the center alongside general visitors to the park.

"The existing building is going to be a learning center focused on education for K-12 as well as higher education," she said. "We'll be able to store research and education that institutes of higher learning have put together. Then the new building will be our general visitors center and the theater, which will allow us to host our 1 million visitors per year. That will be really amazing and awesome to be able to allow those kids to come back in."

In a press release about the groundbreaking ceremony, it was announced that the new visitors space will include several amenities, including "added restrooms, office space, an enlarged gift shop, enhanced and updated educational and interpretive displays, a conference/multipurpose room that will seat 200 in chairs/100 at tables, a catering kitchen, and a large format theater featuring the documentary 'Secrets of Great Salt Lake.'"

Scott Strong, director of Utah State Parks, said the expansion will be especially beneficial to those 10,000 K-12 students who visit the island each year.

"This new facility is going to create an education and research facility that they will all benefit from," he said.

Joel Ferry, executive director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources, said this expansion is ultimately built for the people of Utah as well.

"This is a way the people of Utah can come and they can connect in a way all of us are here today," he said. "They can come experience the lake. It's a learning and education center, but it's also hands-on. ... I think the connection that we're trying to make is one that will be life-changing."

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