After more than a year of planning and construction, the Flint Hills Discovery Center opened to great fanfare Saturday morning. Local and regional residents, city and state officials, Kaw Indian Nation members and Discovery Center staff filled the Blue Earth Plaza near 3rd and Colorado streets at 10 a.m. to dedicate Manhattan’s newest attraction.
The ceremony included remarks by Gov. Sam Brownback, Mayor Jim Sherow, former mayor and Flint Hills Discovery Center Foundation President Bruce Snead and former Flint Hills Tourism Coalition President Suzan Barnes. Additionally, members of the Kaw Nation conducted a blessing and a dance to the honor the plaza and the Discovery Center.
“When you go in and get to see the film introducing the place, it just brings tears to your eyes to see how celebrated the Flint Hills are,” Brownback said. “One of the things we represent in Kansas is the last stand of the tall grass prairie—we got it and we’re going to protect it.”
Sherow, a fourth generation Kansan, said the opening of the Discovery Center struck deep emotional chords with him.
“Today as your mayor making this kind of dedication speech is a dream come true,” Sherow said. “As a professor of Kansas history at K-State, it’s exciting to see the stories of the Flint Hills reach a much broader audience.”
Snead noted that as part of the Manhattan City Commission he had the privilege of participating in many of the “key decisions” that led to the grand opening.
“I am so proud to be part of this project with all these people,” Snead said. “New structures of this significance are rarely created, and when they are they are representative of the values of the whole community or region.”
Jaclyn Collins, Discovery Center public relations coordinator, said there were about 100 volunteers and the entire Discovery Center staff present to work the event. Collins said the Discovery Center saw somewhere between 1,000 and 1,500 visitors Saturday.
ESB Financial partnered with the Discovery Center to sponsor the grand opening, which included free admission to the exhibits . ESB also provided activities inside and outside the Discovery Center including kite-flying for kids, fossil rubbings and a performance by a lasso professional to show how roping is done in the region.