McCrory visitors center gets $250K

Ruth Brown

Ruth Brown

A new addition to McCrory Gardens recently received a pledge of funding from the Brookings City Council.

The new education and visitors center will be used not only by the Brookings community but also by SDSU students and faculty.

“We have a lead donation of $1.5 million from an anonymous donor,” said Provost Laurie Nichols. “We will need around $1 million to $3 million in private funding.”

At the Dec. 8 City Council meeting, the council pledged $250,000 to the project, a small percentage of the multi-million dollar project.

The rest of the funding will come from one large donor and multiple other small donations that the gardens have received.

“The main use of the building will be educational, but it will serve a variety of purposes,” said Dave Graper, director of McCrory Gardens and head of the Horticulture, Forestry, Landscape and Parks Department at SDSU.

Nichols said the education and visitors center could be used for classrooms, conference centers, office space, restroom facilities, storage and a warming kitchen.

The project has two facility options, a basic facility and an expanded facility. Whether or not the basic or expanded facility will be built depends on the amount of funding McCrory Gardens can find.

The basic facility, priced at $3.55 million, would be 8,670 square feet and would include a great hall, a welcoming area and offices, as well as a main parking lot and a gateway and entrance sign.

The expanded facility, priced at $5.5 million, would add 1,774 square feet and would include additional classrooms, auxiliary parking, a south plaza and a children’s garden.

“This will really give the community and SDSU greater use of the gardens,” said Nichols. “Currently there isn’t even a bathroom in the gardens, so this would make hosting large events easier for visitors.”

Some possible uses of the education and visitors centers would be weddings, conferences, retreats and classrooms.

So far, seven SDSU departments have said they would use the center for hosting classes and field trips. These include horticulture, biology, landscape design and interior design.

“This building will offer year-round capabilities for the gardens,” said Graper. “Right now we have limited use during the winter months.”

As of right now, more than 80 percent of the needed funding has been pledged, and the topic will be taken to the upcoming Board of Regents meeting and Legislative Session for approval.

Because McCrory Gardens is on state land, the Legislature must approve all construction that happens.

“McCrory Gardens is really a jewel for Brookings that no other place in town can replicate,” said Steve Erpenbach, president and CEO of the SDSU Foundation, which has been helping in the search for donors for the new building. “The new building would really benefit and expand the use of the gardens.”