CENTRAL CITY, Neb. — It’s been a long time coming, but the new Merrick County Youth and Agriculture Education Center in Central City is open for business.

A ribbon cutting was held Thursday night for the $2.2 million facility on the Merrick County Fairgrounds.

The old agriculture building at the fairgrounds was fading, and it was obvious a new facility was needed, said Tammy Stuhr, 4-H Extension educator and unit leader for Merrick County.

“The current building just needed too many repairs, and it wasn’t worth the money to fix,” she said. “The board told me to come up with my dream facility, and here it is three years later.”

When the Merrick Foundation was asked for a $650,000 grant, Stuhr said, “They told us they would give us $325,000 over 10 years, and we had to match it. We jumped on that offer.”

All but $72,000 has been matched. Most has come from local donors, and some of the matching funds came through grants.

In addition to the Merrick Foundation, a $25,000 grant from the Union Pacific Foundation was used for the kitchen, and a $2,000 grant from the Soybean Board went toward a mural that will be hung on the south side of the arena. The mural was painted by a local artist using soybean-based paint.

The general contractor and many subcontractors tossed in $100,000 for things such as tiled floors.

The building has an education center room that can accommodate 350 to 500 people and a classroom/conference room that can accommodate 40. It will also house the Merrick County Extension office with four to five employees.

A kitchen designed for teaching youth essential life skills and adults healthy living and food safety will be in the education wing.

The agriculture wing will be able to host farm technology days, equine and livestock shows, and ag and commercial exhibits.

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