$6 million 'Welcome Center' proposed for Antelope Island to encourage tourism

Mar 8 2012 - 10:19pm

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FARMINGTON -- If the first thing visitors see while traveling across the causeway to Antelope Island is a $6 million "Welcome Center," it may extend their stay on the island and perhaps their stay in the state, too.

That is the vision of Antelope Island State Park Manager Jeremy Shaw, who shared the idea with Friends of Antelope Island on Wednesday at the group's monthly board meeting in Davis County Memorial Courthouse in Farmington.

"(It would be) the first thing you see when you get to the island," Shaw said of the potential welcome center.

At this point, Shaw said, his plan is merely in the idea stages -- consisting of a conceptual design he has requested and hopes to have available within several weeks.

"That is the way it is going to get done -- to start showing this (conceptual design) to people," he said.

Shaw said it is his hope to have the center built on the east side of the island, just south of the marina, making it difficult for visitors to miss.

The center would include a "grand lobby" where, he said, promotional materials from cities, area businesses and possibly the other 42 Utah state parks, could be presented to the public.

"It's just the best point of contact with people," Shaw said.

The current visitor's center on the island attracts between 40 and 45 percent of all island visitors, according to Davis County officials.

Shaw said that by building a welcome center near the island entryway, he expects they would double the number of visitors. The current visitor's center could then be used as an education center for visiting groups, he said.

Some of the early concepts include a silo/barn-like structure; an East Coast seaside type of design; something eco-friendly; an earth-tone blended design; and one with sails, similar to the look of the Rio Tinto soccer stadium in Sandy, said Barry Burton, Friends of Antelope Island board chairman.

Although no budget appropriation has been made for the project, several board members seem to share Shaw's vision.

"It's a big win for everybody," said board member Barbara Riddle, Davis Area Convention & Visitor's Bureau President and CEO.

Riddle said, "like a kid in a candy store" she is excited about the project and can envision the board being involved in it.

To determine the demographics of those visiting the island, Riddle said, she would recommend a new survey be conducted on visitation. The last survey of island visitors was done in 2007, she said.

Board member Rick Mayfield asked Shaw what kind of timeline he was looking at for the project.

Shaw said it could be anywhere from five to six years before they could get such a building in place.

Other island improvements the board members discussed in their meeting were restoring and dredging the marina; posting a radio signal sign to help visitors identify a station to tune to for island information; and replacing some older, weathered signs.

The Friends of Antelope Island is a nonprofit organization that oversees a $100,000 annual budget.

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