FHDC Foundation President Bruce Snead speaks at the center’s 10 year anniversary celebration April 14, 2022. (Nick McNamara/ KMAN)

The Flint Hills Discovery Center celebrated 10 years in Manhattan Thursday with cake, giveaways, traditional Flint Hills music by Derrick Doty and Melissa Atchison, and the ever-popular balloon drop made popular at its family-friendly New Years Eve events.

The FHDC was a product of the City of Manhattan’s South End Redevelopment beginning in 2007. The center was the tourist attraction that opened the door for Sales Tax and Revenue (STAR) bonds to be awarded for downtown redevelopment in the district.

STAR bonds are a mechanism through which cities can divert largely State shares of sales tax collections from a specified district for a period of time into redevelopment and tourism-generating projects.

Construction on the FHDC broke ground in 2010, officially opening to more than 3,000 visitors on its first day in operation a year and half later on April 14, 2012.

Numerous representatives of the Manhattan City Commission were present as well as staff from numerous city departments alongside members of the Foundation board that fundraises for the center.

“I want to thank everyone for being here today to celebrate because this is actually your party,” says Susan Adams. “It is because of the wonderful community support that the center began 10 years ago and is continuing to be here and even stronger today.”

(Nick McNamara/ KMAN)

Adams welcomed those in attendance to write their favorite memory from the FHDC on a sticky card and place it on the wall in the center, and thanked the staff and volunteers that make their operations possible.

City Manager Ron Fehr says the years have seemed to fly by since construction, and that the partnerships and relationships fostered by the FHDC throughout the region are evident in the work they do.

(Nick McNamara/ KMAN)

“It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years, where this was just a dream on a map,” says Fehr. “I appreciate all the current and past mayors and commissioners that have supported the effort to develop this South Entertainment District, for which the Discovery Center is the anchor entertainment and visitation piece.”

Mayor Linda Morse called the center a tribute to the Flint Hills, and spoke about numerous outreach and education efforts taken on by the FHDC – notably the Flint Hills Map and Education Project that provided regional maps to 190 schools.

(Nick McNamara/ KMAN)

“[The] prairie and the Flint Hills are a treasure also, and we forget about that,” says Morse. “Manhattan and our community values that relationship with the prairie. Thank you to the Foundation that’s raised money, to the employees [and]the team here – this is a wonderful celebration, 10 years, and we’re going to keep going.”

Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jason Smith spoke of his predecessor Lyle Butler, who he says spent countless hours selling the various projects related to South End redevelopment – including the FHDC. Smith says he was struck by the center upon his first visit to Manhattan when considering taking the top role with the Chamber.

“It showed me that this was a community with citizens that care about this city,” says Smith. “Because you don’t invest these kind of dollars into a city that you don’t care about.”

(Nick McNamara/ KMAN)

He says projects like the FHDC are indicative of the genuine care and affection the community has for the region’s history and heritage.

Closing out the program was FHDC Foundation President Bruce Snead, former city commissioner, mayor and recently named ‘Friend of the Flint Hills.’ Snead says the efforts to make the FHDC a reality came at fiscal, personal and political prices for many people, but that ‘in the end it was and has been all worth it.’

“The Foundation has just been such a wonderful thing to be associated with – it functions to advance the mission and work of the Flint Hills Discovery Center through dynamic and vibrant development programs which identify, cultivate, solicit and express appreciation to the donors of the Foundation,” Snead says. “10 years. It’s been a great start and this place will be around for the life of this community as long as all of us continue to support it and sustain its operation.

“This is a city-owned and operated facility and I can tell you that in the last two years, this facility because of that has been open more than any other museum in the State of Kansas. It’s a tribute to Susan and her perseverance in face of all those obstacles that they remained open and provided programs.”

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