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Reagan Bassinger (from left), Matthew Roettger, Logan Bakula and Colby Howard, students at Lourdes Central Catholic in Nebraska City, watch turtles swim through an exhibit Thursday at the Schramm Education Center.
A play area at the Schramm Education Center is set up as a campsite.
Addison DeFreece (left), Will Eppert and Reagan Bassinger, students at Lourdes Central Catholic in Nebraska City, touch fish Thursday at the Schramm Education Center.
Students from Seymour Elementary School in Ralston release trout they raised in their classroom Thursday at the Schramm Education Center.
Turtles swim in an exhibit at the Schramm Education Center.
Students from Nebraska City Lourdes Central Catholic make arts and crafts and build towers in a creative corner Thursday at the Schramm Education Center.
Nebraska's largest carp weighing in just under 35 pounds swims in a quarantine tank before she will be put on display at the Schramm Education Center. She was caught in a private lake in Washington County and beat the previous record-holding fish by over a pound.
Students from Nebraska City Lourdes Central Catholic Will Eppert and Reagan Bassinger touch fish Thursday at the Schramm Education Center.
A general view of the newly renovated Schramm Education Center.
Students from Seymour Elementary School in Ralston collect specimens from various ponds Thursday at the Schramm Education Center.
A tray filled with a skull, snakeskin, a bumble bee and other materials sits near a digital microscope at the Schramm Education Center.
Skutt Catholic students Megan Snow (left) and Zak Stremlau look through binoculars at a birdwatching station Thursday at the Schramm Education Center.
Bluegill swim through an aquarium tank at the Schramm Education Center.
After a $7 million makeover, the new Schramm Education Center is scheduled to open to the public Saturday, finishing the first stage of the state’s Venture Parks concept.
“People are going to be very impressed with what they’re going to discover,” said Jim Swenson, parks administrator for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. “They’re going to discover a whole new facility.”
The former Aksarben Aquarium grew from 10,000 square feet to more than 14,000, and its aquarium tripled in size — to more than 21,000 gallons.
More than 60 native Nebraska species will be on display, most of them fish, but also reptiles, amphibians and birds. Visitors can touch a sturgeon in a 2,200-gallon touch tank.
The center is also introducing new interactive exhibits, like a digital topographical map, touch-screens focusing on nearby species and a virtual reality mountain biking experience.
It's open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. year-round, and it does charge admission: $10 for ages 13 and up, and $7 for children 4-12 and seniors 60 and older. Children 3 and under get in free. A parks pass is not required to visit the center.
The center is along the Platte River on Nebraska 31, about 6 miles south of Interstate 80's exit 432 near Gretna.
The center was renovated as part of the Venture Parks concept, a public-private partnership designed to draw new state parks users. The $35 million initiative includes glamping cabins and a spray park at Platte River State Park; a treetops ropes course and climbing wall at Mahoney State Park; and a floating playground at Louisville State Recreation Area.