Stunning, elaborate, sophisticated, and unique. These are the words used to describe the new 69,000-square-foot welcome center opening at the Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park.
Leigh Ann Towne spoke with President and CEO, David Hooker, about why this entrance was needed, and what guests can expect when they visit.
David Hooker said the entrance was a practical need to welcome people to Meijer Gardens in a professional way.
The community's warm embrace, is actually what led to the need for a bigger entrance area. Before the Welcome Center, the ticketing area was designed when the organization was young. Previously they believed only 200,000 people would visit in a year when in reality their peak year was a grand total of 780,000.
Through the generosity of Fred and Lena Meijer, the Meijer Family, and hundreds of donors, they were able to create the Welcome Center to meet their needs.
The design expresses the four parts of their mission in a profound way: sculpture, gardens, natural environment, and arts. When entering the center, guests will be surrounded by all of those things, including granite walls from Echo Lake, Minnesota.
On the ceiling, there are sculptures of acrobats flying through the air, curtain walls that open to look out to a garden designed to be viewed from the inside, out. There will also be four of Fred Meijer's original sculpture acquisitions.
"Meijer gardens belong to you all of you all of your viewers and everyone watching and listening," Hooker said. "We've become what we've become for a lot of reasons, Fred and Lena Meijer and all of our donors the community's warm embrace that we mentioned is so important. I encourage people to continue that and we need to continue that before our time arrives and until the end of time. If people continue to embrace us this resource will be here for your children, for your grandchildren, and on and on and on."
For those who want to visit the gardens, masks are required and social distancing is a must.
To learn more, visit meijergardens.org.