Opening celebration for Yellowstone's new Old Faithful Visitor Center draws hundreds of visitors

Sam Galindo and his father, Peter (the NPS project architect) greet the first visitors to the center (Photo by Beth Pratt)Not to be upstaged, Old Faithful surged into the blue sky during the grand opening celebration of its new namesake visitor center, causing the hundreds in attendance to turn from the proceedings and watch the spectacular eruption.

The Old Faithful Visitor Education Center opened today, after almost eight years of planning and over two years of construction. Sam Galindo (the son of the National Park Service project architect) proudly waved a Yellowstone flag and led the first visitors into the building.

Wyoming residents Ben and Darlene Frint made the trip to Yellowstone just to see the new center. “Yellowstone is our favorite park—we’ve been coming here forever.” The Jaynes and Poulsen families—with infants in tow—were visiting the park from Wisconsin and joined the celebration. “We love the hands on stuff. This place is beautiful and amazing.”

Yellowstone’s Superintendent, Suzanne Lewis, introduced a series of special guests during the opening ceremony, including Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, Tom Strickland. “We have a tremendous legacy in this country, a unique legacy of protecting our special places for the benefit and enjoyment of all, not just the few.”

National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis spoke about how parks are not just beautiful places, but also centers of learning for students where they can be inspired to explore careers in science. Jarvis also praised the green building model of the new center “Parks should be an exemplar and world leader in sustainability. And this Gold LEED Certified building does just that.”

Lewis recognized the Yellowstone Park Foundation and its donors for making the center possible. “It’s hard for us to underestimate how much the efforts of the Yellowstone Park Foundation helped us get here today. They raised $15 million—over half of the budget.” The Foundation’s board chairman, Bannus Hudson, told the crowd, “As the park’s official fundraising organization, this is the proudest day in our history.” Major donors to the project include ConocoPhillips, the National Science Foundation, Shalin Liu, Unilver, Cheng Wu, Coca-Cola Foundation, and Toyota Motor Sales, USA, among others.

Paul Schullery, the author and Yellowstone historian featured in Ken Burn’s documentary,The National Parks, delivered the keynote address and called the center “a powerful new tool for celebrating Yellowstone.” He gave a brief history of visitor centers in the park. “Some of the early museums were called trailside museums, explicit emphasis on trailside, because the rangers, then and now, never let you forget that the real wonder is out there, not inside.”

And as if on cue, Old Faithful erupted soon after his remark.