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Work begins on $5M Sanford Lab Homestake Visitor Center; will feature history and science

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LEAD, South Dakota — Construction is to begin Monday on a $5 million visitor center for the Sanford Underground Research Facility at Lead.

Ground was broken for the facility on Tuesday. Construction of the 8,000-square-foot center is expected to be complete within a year, according to Mike Headley, executive director of the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority.

Officials at the federally supported lab nearly a mile underground in the former Homestake gold mine are conducting research on complex subjects such as nuclear reactions within stars and dark matter, an elusive substance that scientists believe makes up about one-fourth of the universe.

"For 126 years we mined this area for gold. Hopefully, for the next 126 years and beyond we will mine this area for scientific research and knowledge, not only for the benefit of the international scientific community, but for the benefit of the entire world," Lead Mayor Jerry Apa said.

Sioux Falls philanthropist T. Denny Sanford provided funding for the Sanford Lab Homestake Visitor Center. The facility will showcase Lead's history and offer educational programs about the lab's science projects, according to Ron Wheeler, the lab's governmental and external affairs director.

"Another focus will be ... conducting workshops up here in Lead to train teachers," he said.

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