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BRANSON, Mo.–The Army Corps of Engineers’ Little Rock District held a groundbreaking ceremony July 9 for the new Dewey Short Visitor Center at Table Rock Lake near Branson. The new facility will be located between Highway 265 and the current visitor center that overlooks the lake.
The Corps received funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to design and build the new center. The current facility was built in 1975 and houses both the visitor center and the Table Rock Lake Project Office. It is not large enough to accommodate the large number of visitors it receives. Last year more than 135,000 visitors toured the facility.
In May, the Corps awarded a $7.9 million contract to Applied Energy Management Inc. of Huntersville, N.C., to design and construct the building. Since then, design has proceeded, and construction will begin in August. The structure will be completed in August 2011.
The new 15,000-square-foot facility will be about twice the size of the existing Dewey Short Visitor Center. Once the new facility is built, the project office will absorb the square footage now devoted to the old visitor center.
The Corps is exploring partnerships with several organizations to provide exhibits and displays in the new center. ARRA funds will not be used for exhibits and displays.
The new visitor center will be one of a handful of unique regional facilities in the Corps. It will not only highlight history of the lake and surrounding Ozark Mountains, it will also tell the Corps’ story through engaging exhibits. It will have three functional areas:
* The visitor area, which will include exhibits, a 90-seat theater and a gift shop.
* The educational area, which will include a multi-purpose room and wet lab.
* An administrative office area.
An agreement was signed April 28 between the Corps and the Ozarks Rivers Heritage Foundation to manage the current visitor center until it is closed. Once the new visitor center is ready to open, a new agreement is expected to be developed for the foundation to continue managing day to day operation.
The center will be a welcome addition to the major tourism industry that has developed in Branson and surrounding areas since the Corps constructed Table Rock Lake. The Missouri Division of Tourism reports visitor spending in Taney, Stone and Barry counties, which encompass most of Table Rock Lake, exceeded $640 million in 2008.