CORBIN, Ky. – The Appalachian Wildlife Foundation (AWF) announced that construction of the 80,000 square-foot visitor center building at the Appalachian Wildlife Center has begun.
Almost three years after purchasing the Bell County, Kentucky site for the Appalachian Wildlife Center, construction of the central attraction, the 80,000 square-foot visitor center began last week. The General Contractor is Hacker Brothers Construction, and the building is expected to take 18 to 20 months to complete.
The visitor center will contain two museums, a theater, a 300-seat restaurant, an artisans hall, a bird watchers hall, a gift shop and classrooms. Additionally, two bird observatories, an open-air zoo, a petting zoo, nature-walk and other features will be constructed by opening day in June of 2021.
AWF has had to overcome engineering and design challenges and cost increases in the effort to construct the wildlife center on reclaimed mine lands. “This is an important milestone that our team has been working very hard to reach for a long time. We have had to come up with some innovative and creative design, engineering and financing ideas to get this project off the ground,” stated AWF Chairman Frank Allen.
Expected to host paid attendance of over 850,000 visitors a year that will generate $170,000,000 in annual regional spending and create over 2,900 new jobs, the Appalachian Wildlife Center is widely regarded as a transformative project.
“Now that construction has started, we have taken a giant leap forward in creating incredible new opportunities. Wildlife tourism will be a game changer for the region,” commented AWF President David Ledford.
The Appalachian Wildlife Center aligns with SOAR’s Regional Blueprint for a 21st Century Appalachia. Two of the blueprint’s seven goals are making Appalachia Kentucky a tourist destination and creating small businesses.
“The Appalachian Wildlife Center will bring a large number of jobs, and it will have a ripple effect that will bring new opportunities to existing small business owners and a compelling case for entrepreneurs to invest in and around the center,” said Jared Arnett, executive director of Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc. (SOAR). ‘David [Ledford] has stayed the course, and we are thrilled to see this project begin to take shape.”
The Appalachian Wildlife Foundation is a Corbin, Ky.-based nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization.