NEWPORT - After nearly two years, visitors will get a hands-on chance to enjoy the multi-million dollar remodeling of Oregon State University's Mark O. Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport.

The center's public wing reopens at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 17. Winter hours, which continue through May 23, are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Monday. From May 24 through Labor Day, hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Admission is free, but donations will be accepted.

Grand opening ceremonies start at 2 p.m. May 17 with a keynote address by former Oregon Sen. Mark Hatfield. The official ceremonies will conclude with a flag ceremony by staff from the Coast Guard's Yaquina Bay Station.

While visitors will find more than 20 new exhibits, some favorites remain. The octopus touch tank endures, but was remodeled, enlarged and placed on the floor. The tidepool touch tank was also rebuilt.

New additions rely on high technology to quickly bring research from OSU scientists to the public. Attractions include a main gallery that progresses through four zones, each examining the marine world at different scales.

The Global Scale zone features exhibits on marine mammals, the geology of ocean floor and the dynamics of the open ocean. The Bird's Eye area will compare dryland forests to the kelp forest of the ocean. Visitors will also learn about coastal hazards and what's happening on the beach.

There will be aquaria in each of the zones with animals and plants and interactive exhibits, including some computer games.

Age was the factor leading to the renovation, which started in 1995 with a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The OSU center's public wing first opened in 1965 with 10,000 square feet of space. The wing now stands at 15,000 square feet.

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Lavern Weber, 541-867-0211