$12.1 Million Contract Awarded For Visitor and Research Center at Mesa Verde National Park

An artist's rendering of the visitor and research center to be built at Mesa Verde National Park. NPS graphic.

A Colorado company has landed a $12.1 million contract to build a visitor and research center at Mesa Verde National Park, which long has needed a suitable building to house its millions of artifacts.

"We have long needed a facility to properly house the park's valuable collection and archives. It is estimated that the collection consists of over 3 million objects and archival materials," said Tessy Shirakawa, the park's chief of visitor services. "They are currently housed in what is endearingly referred to as the 'tin shed,' which was a temporary storage and processing facility for the 'Wetherill Mesa Project' back in the 60s; a joint research project between the National Geographic Society and the NPS.

"The park curator is currently in the process of trying to call in 'loans' from various museums and academic institutions. It will be a tremendous endeavor to package everything up and transport them to their new home," she said.

The contract went to PCL Construction Services, Inc. of Edwards, Colorado.

The Visitor Information Center and the Research/Museum Collection Facility will be constructed to form a single building – The Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center.

As envisioned, the building will include sustainable design features, strive for high efficiency with an emphasis on alternative energy systems, and include all associated site work/infrastructure and native landscaping, according to a Park Service release.

The building has been designed to earn Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED™) Platinum certification. The Visitor Information Center component will consist of orientation exhibits, tour ticket sales, and the non-profit Mesa Verde Museum Association Bookstore. The Research and Museum Collection Facility building will replace the park's deteriorated temporary buildings and storage facilities with a consolidated, efficient and sustainable facility.

The building will be located at the entrance to Mesa Verde National Park along Highway 160. The Mesa Verde Foundation helped the park acquire the land. Construction is expected to be completed by July 2012. The exhibits will then be installed, with the target of opening the new Visitor and Research Center in October 2012.

"We were very pleased with bid results as now the National Park Service can move forward with construction. The project has been in the planning and design stage for a very long time," said Mesa Verde Superintendent Cliff Spencer. "Soon, we will have a new building which will improve access to and study of more than 3 million artifacts, archives and library collections. In addition, it will provide critical visitor services at the entry to the park."