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ND Heritage Center to open two galleries April 28, but still looking for food vendor

BISMARCK – Visitors to the North Dakota Heritage Center may have to stow their appetites when the first two galleries of the newly expanded and renovated facility are opened to the public on April 28.

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Expansion Coordinator Claudia Berg told the State Historical Board on Friday that the state requested but didn’t receive any proposals from vendors to provide food service in the Heritage Center’s new café.

Berg said local businesses are still being courted as possible vendors, but finding workers is a major challenge, with many vendors having trouble keeping their own establishments fully staffed.

The café will be open seven days a week, and the Heritage Center is only closed four days a year, “so that’s asking a lot,” Berg said. Vendors are being asked to propose whatever service they think they can provide, she said.

“It could be rent-free for a year if we wanted. We want the service,” she said.

The 2009 Legislature authorized $51.7 million for the Heritage Center expansion, with $39.7 million appropriated from state funds and $12 million to come from federal and private sources. The State Historical Society Foundation has surpassed the $12 million mark.

The project has nearly doubled the size of the original Heritage Center that opened in 1981, adding a new glass entrance, the café and new display galleries.

The Adaptation Gallery, which features dinosaur fossils and other prehistoric pieces in the Geologic Time exhibit, and the Innovation Gallery, which focuses on the state’s early peoples, will open to the public on April 28.

Historical Board members said they’ve received positive feedback from small groups who have toured the galleries.

“They’re quite outstanding,” Secretary of State Al Jaeger said.

In addition to the two galleries, the center’s new museum store and front desk also will open on April 28. The new front entrance won’t be open from the outside, so the public will still have to use the current front doors on the northwest side of the facility.

A grand opening that will include the final two galleries is set for Nov. 2 in conjunction with North Dakota’s 125th anniversary of statehood.

Construction began in March 2011 and was originally expected to be finished by January 2013, but the project has faced delays related to the worker shortages, the availability of construction materials and other factors.

Mike Nowatzki

Mike Nowatzki reports for Forum News Service. He can be reached at (701) 255-5607.