International Crane Foundation leaders on Saturday unveiled plans for a $10 million expansion to the organization’s headquarters in Baraboo.
ICF Headquarters Operations Vice President Kim Smith opened the nonprofit’s Evening with the Cranes event with a brief overview of plans to construct a new visitor center and expand crane exhibits over the next three years. Smith said it will be the largest expansion project ICF has undertaken to date.
“We’ll basically redo most of the site,” she said.
Smith said the new visitor center will be located on the west end of the nature center’s 300-acre grounds, and will be connected to a renovated sandhill crane exhibit. The new building will have a window for guests to view sandhill cranes as they enter the facilities, she said.
Other improvements include expanding and renovating most of the organization’s crane exhibits. Excluding the African crane exhibits – which were part a $2.4 million expansion in 2009 – and the whooping crane exhibit, ICF’s birds will receive larger enclosures so they can display their natural behaviors, Smith said.
“Most of the larger cranes will have a lot more space,” she said. “We’ll basically double and triple the amount of space they have now and redesign the enclosures.”
Smith said the new exhibits will be more open like the organization’s whooping and blue crane exhibits, so that ICF staff will no longer have to talk about their work separated from the birds by chain-linked fences.
“We’ll be able to have a conversation about our work worldwide to save 11 species of threatened and endangered cranes,” she said. “That’s the main reason we wanted to do this.”
Serious planning for the improvements began a year ago when the organization developed its 10-year master plan, but talk of expanding the grounds has been going on for a decade, Smith said. ICF will break ground for the new improvements in June of next year, and construction will be completed by spring of 2020, she added.
In addition to the landmark announcement, the organization sold a record number of tickets to its annual Evening with the Cranes event on Saturday. ICF marketing and communications director Pamela Seelman said more than 500 tickets were sold, and estimated the event generated more than $28,000 to bolster the organization’s conservation efforts around the world.
Throughout the evening, guests could stroll throughout the grounds with a glass of beer or wine, listen to live music, observe the birds and learn about crane and habitat conservation work in India, China, Southeast Asia, Africa and North America from ICF staff.
Seelman said the night was intended to educate guests about ICF’s work around the world.
“This is the only place in the world where people can see all 15 cranes,” she said. “This is a gateway to our mission – to save the cranes and also the environments in which they live.”