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      New Birding Center Opens in SPI

      The World Birding Center is the newest attraction to "nest" on South Padre Island.

      The grand opening took place on Saturday morning.

      Thousands of visitors flocked the $6.5 million building for the inauguration ceremony.

      Among the visitors were Patty Palermo and her three children. "I think I'll be visiting at least once a month," she said. "This is such a neat event; seeing that they brought something like this to the Valley. I feel like its going to be a great benefit to the Valley."

      That was exactly what Richard Franke, the President of the World Birding Center, had in mind when planning the new 10,000 foot center.

      The facility includes a five story tower and a boardwalk for viewing.

      It was built on 50 acres of wetlands.

      Franke said that the center will provide an educational opportunity, as well as, an economic impact in the form of visitors. "Original projections were in the neighborhood of 350,000 people that would come through on an annual basis," he added.

      The numbers are encouraging for businesses on South Padre Island and affordable for visitors.

      For instance, if one takes the price of admission for an adult to the new center, $5 per day, and multiplies that by 350,000, that totals to almost $2 million dollars a year. And, it does not include lodging, meals, gas and other travel expenses.

      According to the World Birding Center, in Texas alone, bird watchers spend an average of $2.9 billion dollars each year.

      As a premier destination for bird watching, a large percentage of that money goes to Valley businesses.

      Franke said that he sees a strong future for bird watching on South Padre Island. "I think this is a source of visitation to the area that we need to expand on, and the economic impact will be, over a period of time, very, very substantial," he said.

      But, he also recognized that the key will be to keep visitors like Patty Palermo flocking back to the Birding Center.

      Go to the World Birding Center TMs website for information on the center and visiting hours.