Ping! Ping! That’s the sound of progress around the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center! As piles get pounded into the ground AWCC gets excited for a new addition named Bison Hall, to expand and grow the education program at AWCC. As fundraising efforts continue, the beginning stages of Bison Hall have started to take shape. Bison Hall will serve as the event and education space in the developing Portage Village area.
For years, AWCC has used its current maintenance barn for special events and school field trips. Turning the “working” barn into a “classroom” requires a lot of work. And in the meantime when the “classroom” is occupied, maintenance projects get pushed to the back burner and suffer delays. “The current barn was never designed to be an educational space. It has only one bathroom and wood stove for heat. That makes it difficult to have meetings or school groups during the winter,” says Executive Director Mike Miller. Yet the skillful staff at AWCC has made it work. Roughly 1,000 students visit AWCC on field trips each year, while another 500 attend special events.
Bison Hall will be a 3,840-square-foot barn-style structure and will be located next to the gift store. It will have a large open-meeting space to accommodate multi-use activities and also have a smaller meeting room for classroom-type instruction. The building will have additional restroom facilities and an extended roof to provide shelter for outdoor activities. A much needed water system will also be incorporated into Bison Hall and will service the entire AWCC campus.
Generous contributions have been made on behalf of the Rasmuson Foundation, Tauck Tours, the Atwood Foundation, Home Depot and the municipality of Anchorage for phase 1 of Bison Hall. Additional funding has been secured for the initial development of the Portage Village, with the entire project estimated to conclude sometime in 2016.