If you want to get one last look at the old Tillamook Cheese Factory visitors center, you only have until Sunday, March 5, to do it. The next day, the building will be closed for good, as owners prepare to demolish the attraction in order to rebuild it from the ground up.
It's all part of a grand plan to renew the visitor experience at the beloved cheese factory on the Oregon coast - one of the most popular attractions in the state for generations.
In October, the Tillamook County Creamery Association, which operates the factory, unveiled plans for a "complete redesign and rebuild" of the visitors center, scheduled to open in summer 2018.
The new 38,500-square-foot facility will be nearly 50 percent bigger than the old one, designed to accommodate 1.3 million annual visitors with a larger cafe, additional indoor and outdoor seating, a new gift shop, improved parking lot and an "enhanced" ice cream counter.
The factory itself will remain as is, with the construction going on all around it.
"This has been something that's kind of been in the works for a while," Tori Harms, spokeswoman for the creamery association, said at the time. "While you can't build a facility large enough that there will never be an ice cream line in the summer, I think visitors will find that the new building will be a much more enjoyable experience."
Between the closure of the old building and the opening of the new one, the association will operate a temporary visitors center - set to open March 22 - that will have food, ice cream, shopping and a special exhibit that gives an in-depth look at dairy farming in Tillamook County.
Between March 6 and 22, there will be no visitor experiences at the Tillamook Cheese Factory.
Since it opened, the cheese factory has been a popular tourist attraction and cherished destination for generations of Oregonians. The free factory tour - changed to an upstairs view of the factory in the late 1960s - has always been the main attraction, though it's rare to see a visitor walk out without an ice cream cone or block of cheese in hand.
The current production facility was built near the Oregon Coast town in 1949, getting an official visitors center 30 years later. In 1985, the Tillamook County Creamery Association expanded the visitors center by 2,500 square feet to accommodate what was then 600,000 annual visitors.
The complete overhaul of the visitors center suggests that the Tillamook Cheese Factory is looking to cement its place as one of Oregon's most popular attractions for generations to come.
--Jamie Hale | firstname.lastname@example.org | @HaleJamesB
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