CUSTER, S.D. | Custer State Park will soon be getting a new visitor center.

Interviews will be conducted soon with officials from the top four of eight engineering firms that showed interest in the project.

Doug Hofer, director for the state Division of Parks and Recreation, said the timetable for the construction depends on how fast the South Dakota Parks and Wildlife Foundation can raise its pledged $1 million for the $3 million project.

The Legislature appropriated $1.5 million for the project. That money becomes available July 1 and has a two-year window in which it must be used. Hofer said his division will provide $500,000 from its next budget.

The new visitor center will feature a movie theater to showcase the park's story. The current visitor center is a historic stone building located near the State Game Lodge in the park. The current center would be converted to a nature programs building.

Hofer briefed members of the state Game, Fish and Parks Commission about the visitor center during a meeting Friday.

Hofer said the visitor center project is part of an effort to put Custer State Park on the same level as some of the top U.S. national parks.

"Really our goal is they stay longer, they visit more facets of the park and they do it with more knowledge," Hofer told the commission.

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