Wabasha, MN (KROC AM News) - The National Eagle Center in Wabasha has announced expansion plans that involve its site and some nearby buildings.

The plans call for two phases. The first could begin next spring.

The center says it calls for the renovation and expansion of four buildings it will take ownership of early next year. The center says “ The vision for this phase of the expansion is an adaptive re-use of the buildings to maintain the historic aesthetic of Wabasha’s Main Street, while creating a unified visitor experience with the current facility.”  

One of the highlights of the first phase is gallery and exhibit space at the center.

This would provide gallery space for the Preston Cook Collection, a collection of more than 20,000 items of fine art, artifacts, and ephemera depicting the eagle in American culture. The Collection is valued at more than $2 million and has recently been moved to Minnesota from California in anticipation of its exhibition and donation to the National Eagle Center.

“We’re excited to have a prominent and enduring presence on Wabasha’s historic Main Street, “ said NEC Executive Director Rolf Thompson. “ We expect this investment to be a catalyst for economic growth and downtown revitalization.”

Since its grand opening in 2007, the National Eagle Center has experienced steady growth and now sees more than 80,000 visitors each year.

The public is invited to see concept drawings of the proposed expansion at an open house hosted by the NEC at 110 Main Street (Wabasha, MN) on Thursday, May 19th, 5pm – 7pm and Friday, May 20, 11am – 1pm. A selection of items from the Preston Cook Collection will also be on display, including original 1830’s prints by naturalist and artist John James Audubon, and Andy Warhol’s 1983 bald eagle print, produced as part of his endangered species series.

Funding for the expansion project will likely be a combination of public and private sources. Project costs for Phase I of the expansion are estimated at $6 – 8 million. The National Eagle Center has requested $2 million in state funding as part of Wabasha’s request for capital bonding and anticipates launching a capital campaign for private philanthropy later this year.

Phase II of the proposed expansion includes an addition to the existing facility to meet the need for expanded eagle care and education space. The NEC needs approximately 10,000 sq. ft of additional space to accommodate larger audiences.  The NEC also needs a 120+ seat auditorium style space for educational programs. The NEC believes these needs are best met through an expansion of the existing facility on a portion of the adjacent riverfront property.

The riverfront property is currently owned by the City of Wabasha, which is seeking private development proposals for the site. Thompson noted, “We’re hopeful that we can forge an effective partnership with a private developer to enhance the value of a development and allow for our needed expansion”.  At this time there is no timeline or definite plan for Phase II of the expansion.

The National Eagle Center is a nonprofit educational center on the banks of the Mississippi River in Wabasha, MN. The NEC fosters environmental stewardship through educational programs and exhibits, up-close encounters with non-releasable bald and golden eagles, and opportunities to view eagles in the wild.   For 24/7 news and sports check KROC AM and follow KROC-AM on Facebook.