Wyoming may be well on its way to becoming a national center for studying dinosaur fossils.
Just months after the start of a drive to raise money to fund a fossil preparation and research center at Casper's Tate Museum, another center is scheduled to open in Thermopolis on July 1.The Wyoming Dinosaur Center will house the remains of more than 100 species of dinosaurs, including a triceratops skeleton found near the town.
The 12,000-square foot center sits on land purchased by Big Horn Prospecting Inc. in 1993.
Burkhard Pohl and Ulrich Leonhardt, partners in the firm, were passing through Thermopolis in 1993 when they noticed rocks from the Morrison Formation, a 145 million-year-old layer of earth that is rich in dinosaur remains.
The two obtained a five-year lease to dig on the Black Butte Ranch, and bought the land shortly after that.
The center, which will be open to the public, will include a mounting and storage area and a preparation lab along with its gift shop and snack bar.
Center marketing director P.J. Kimle said dinosaur remains found in Wyoming in the past have been quickly excavated and then shipped out of state for study and display.
"It makes sense to keep them here," Kimle said. "It's not only the Wyoming Dinosaur Center, but it's a great asset to the community, the Big Horn Basin and the entire state."
Last month, renowned paleontologist Robert Bakker of the University of Colorado pledged $100,000 to the Tate Museum in Casper to help turn it into a regional center for the study of dinosaur fossils.
At the time, Bakker said it was ironic that most fossils found in Wyoming, which boasts some of the world's richest fossil deposits, are shipped and displayed outside the state.
"We have world-class dinosaurs here," Bakker said. "We need to have the facility and staff to keep them here."