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New visitors center for Kansas Statehouse will open Thursday

Updated: 2014-01-25T20:37:34Z

By Rick Plumlee

The Wichita Eagle

A recent sprinkler leak won’t wash out Thursday’s scheduled opening of the Kansas Statehouse’s new visitors center.

“We expect everything to go on as planned,” Statehouse Architect Barry Greis said Monday.

A 10 a.m. public ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for the center as part of the wrap-up to a 13-year, nearly $330 million renovation of the historic Statehouse. Tours of the renovated copper dome will be held for the first time since they were put on hold by construction in 2010.

There were initial concerns that the project had hit a bump when a sprinkler broke Christmas Eve in the lobby of the visitors center, knocking out new sheetrock and damaging the electronics of two elevators.

There was about $20,000 damage to the center’s ceiling and walls, Greis said.

One of the two elevators was expected to be up and running by Monday, Greis said. But that won’t affect the access to the visitors, since access to it is through a walk-out basement.

“Really, it was pretty minor,” he said of the damage.

The visitors center is the last renovation work aside from landscaping of the grounds, which will be done this spring.

This is the first time the Statehouse has had a visitors center. In the past, there was only a information desk on the first floor and a few display cases.

The center will have more than 3,000 square feet of space, including an auditorium, classroom and a gift shop, Greis said.

The gift shop will include items made from the old copper removed from the roof of the Statehouse, which was completed in 1903. Those items include jewelry, paper weights and very small plates in the shape of Kansas.

It will be hard for visitors to miss the center, because all visitors must now enter the Statehouse through a north-side walk-out entrance that goes through the center, Greis said.

State employees with key cards can still enter through side entrances.

Reach Rick Plumlee at 316-268-6660 or rplumlee@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rickplumlee.

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