Sandhills Discovery Center

By Lindsay Shearer August 9, 2023

August 3, 2023 –

Senator Jacobson hosted an informational meeting for local community members to discuss the future of, what is now being called the Sandhills Discovery Center.

Representatives from Nebraska Extension, Nebraska 4-H Foundation, Nebraska Community Foundation, architects, and local representatives were on hand for conversations regarding the next steps and the future of the facility.

A new vision

Senator Jacobson started by discussing the need for a name change in order to successfully reimagine the new possibilities for a facility that is more than youth residential camping.  A facility that could be successful year round and have a substantial economic impact to the area.  There are estimates the new facility could bring in $4 million in new economic activity annually to the region.

Jeff Yost, President and CEO of Nebraska Community Foundation, shared the vision of the Lied Lodge in Nebraska City and how that vision could develop in the Sandhills, within the Nebraska National Forest.

The initial architectural concepts for the Sandhills Discovery Center that have been developed include classrooms, conference facilities, camping sites, and other hospitality amenities.

Next Steps

Senator Jacobsen was successful in securing a $10 million appropriation from the State of Nebraska, which also requires a 1:1 match over 10 years.  In order to begin fundraising and development, additional funds need to be secured to complete the initial feasibility study required by the Nebraska Department of Economic Development.

Upon funding of the feasibility study, a committee will be developed to include representatives from Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, USDA National Forest Service, the State of Nebraska and the University of Nebraska.

It is anticipated at least one phase of construction could be completed by 2026.

Keeping the community involved

Senator Jacobson has vowed to keep the local community involved with the vision of the Sandhills Discovery Center.  He has offered to host additional meetings throughout the Sandhills to continue to share the vision and future plans for the facility.

As updates are available, they will be shared at this link.

Additional information regarding the open meeting held in Thedford can be found in the Sandhills Express.