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Capitol Visitor Center to Open Dec. 2

Eight years and more than $600 million after ground was first broken on the Capitol Visitor Center, congressional leaders are expected to announce today that the massive project is slated to open for business on Dec. 2.

At 580,000 square feet, the underground center on the East Front of the Capitol is roughly three-quarters the size of the Capitol Building itself. The new complex will include historical exhibits, theaters, a cafeteria and other amenities to which current visitors to the Hill generally don't have access. Given real momentum by the 1998 shooting attack in the Capitol that killed two police officers, the CVC is designed to streamline and improve security, as it will process visitors through a central location rather than several different entrances.

The CVC also includes a significant amount of new office space for the use of members, committees and staff. The addition of that space is at least partly to blame for the spiraling cost of the project, which was budgeted at $265 million in 1999 but is now expected to cost approximately $621 million. The projected completion of the center has been pushed back repeatedly; it was originally slated to be ready for Inauguration Day in January 2005. After a symbolic groundbreaking on the project in 2000, actual construction by work crews began in 2002.

An official announcement on the opening date is expected to be released sometime today, as was first reported by CQ. The CQ story points out that Dec. 2 will mark the 125th anniversary of the date the Statue of Freedom was first hoisted onto the top of the Capitol.

UPDATE 4:20 PM: The official release announcing the Dec. 2 opening date is out. From the release:

"The plaster model for the Statue of Freedom stands before the entrance to the Exhibition Hall, where carved into the white marble walls are the words, Out of Many, One. The bronze Statue of Freedom stands atop the Capitol Dome on a cast-iron globe encircled with the national motto, E Pluribus Unum (Out of Many, One). The connection between the Capitol Building and the new Capitol Visitor Center is natural and powerful. We look forward to the historic opening of the Visitor Center on the historic day of December 2," said Stephen T. Ayers, AIA, Acting Architect of the Capitol.

Ms. Terrie Rouse, CEO for Visitor Services for the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, summarized some of the exciting new features of the Capitol Visitor Center, "The Visitor Center will be a place of civic engagement that will enhance the visitor's experience at the Capitol Building with an inspiring 13-minute orientation film and an informative exhibit that tells the story of representative democracy in the United States along with the building of the Capitol. Visitors will have the opportunity to tour the Capitol and see the Legislative Branch in action. We hope to make it more comfortable for them by providing amenities such as a dining facility, gift shops, and the chance to make advance reservations for their tour times."

By Ben Pershing  |  July 10, 2008; 4:05 PM ET
Categories:  House , Senate  
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So, how long is it going to be before visitors/tourists are COMPLETELY banned from the "people's house"???

Posted by: Jaded in DC | July 10, 2008 5:35 PM | Report abuse

As it is the peoples house, the citizens of this great country will never be banned from the Capitol. Come on "jaded", be realistic.

Posted by: DC Patriot | July 10, 2008 5:50 PM | Report abuse

It should be a very comfortable place to hang out for folks from the Mitch Snyder homeless shelter. Hope the ventilation is good.

Posted by: Karl | July 10, 2008 6:55 PM | Report abuse

I'd have preferred a different word order, such as: "The official press release is out, announcing the opening on Dec. 2...."

Saying "the release announcing the Dec. 2 opening is out..." makes it sound as if the Dec. 2 date is out [changed, slipped], not that the press release is out.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2008 12:11 PM | Report abuse

I suppose that spending this huge amount of money here on our own people beats the congressioanlly created Iraq financial disaster. However, it is clear that congress can't manage anything. Our congressional representatives appear to be unconcerned about huge cost over-runs and the negative financial impact on the average citizen of having to foot these bills. Congress should work toward reducing office space and staff and should try to be more effiecient instead of digging underground bunkers to house overstaffed offices. While most peole must cut back and watch their pocket books...congress spends like a drunken sailor in port after months at sea and in possession of an unlimited credit to speak.

Posted by: DBAX | July 11, 2008 2:00 PM | Report abuse

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