Saturday, April 13, 2013

Sugarland Visitor Center Completes Renovations

 Friday morning marked the official opening of a newly renovated Sugarlands Visitors Center in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
This $200,000 project was funded by two of the park’s support organizations, with park personnel providing much of the labor.
The Great Smoky Mountains Association and Friends of the Smokies each contributed  $100,000 for the project, and leaders of those groups helped Superintendent Dale Ditmanson assisted with the scissors at the opening.
Speaking before the ribbon-cutting, Ditmanson said Sugarlands was projected to accommodate about 500 people a day when it was originally designed but that on Easter alone about 6,000 people visited. On an annual basis more than 800,000 people come through the center to get “information and orientation” on the park, Ditmanson said.
Included in the renovations are an updated and redesigned lobby with a reception desk that faces the two doors and has a decorative stone wall.
There is also a new media center with video about the environment and activities within the park.
In addition, there is a new floor, lighting and an improved entryway to the park museum, which Schroer said was so hidden by subpar design that for years some visitors did not even know it was there.
Sugarlands opened in 1966 and is named for the region in which it sits, an area that was home to a multitude of sugar maple trees when it was homesteaded in the early 1800s.
Various energy-saving features have also been factored into the renovation, Ditmanson said, including a new roof, LED lighting and reactivation of an array of solar panels powering the adjacent comfort station.
Schroer said construction on the building began in January and was mostly performed from 2-11 p.m. so that the center never missed a day of operation.

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