BOARDMAN -- A row of brightly colored banners lined the road to the entrance.
The parking lot was packed with cars.
It was crowded inside too, with hundreds of people on hand Friday night to dedicate the Port of Morrow's new Sustainable Agriculture and Energy (SAGE) Center in Boardman.
The interactive visitors center -- described by officials as a first for the Northwest -- opens today. To mark the debut, admission is waived for the weekend.
The SAGE Center highlights the many industries within the port and region, and the technologies they use. Guests on Friday perused displays with information on everything from hydropower to area crops. They wandered among the interactive exhibits, including a virtual hot-air balloon tour of Morrow County.
A towering kinetic sculpture showing how a potato goes from the field to twister fries stood near the front doors.
"(The center) is a great way to showcase all the of industries and technology in this region," said Kalie Davis, manager.
"People are able to interact -- not just read, but interact and learn why this region is so important and why we're so excited to share it with the world," she said.
The SAGE Center cost about $7 million, including the building and exhibits, and is the result of years of planning, officials said.
"I can't say enough about all the work that's been put into -- all the hard work," said port Commissioner Joe Taylor, one of several local and state officials who spoke Friday.
"This is magnificent. This is wonderful. Congratulations," said Oregon state Rep. Greg Smith, who helped secure money.
Pasco architect Terence Thornhill -- also responsible for designing the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center scheduled to open next year at the west end of Columbia Park -- designed the facility with the Portland-based Ross Farland. The Portland firm Formations designed and built the exhibits.
The SAGE Center also includes a 204-seat theater, a mezzanine area and a store.
Gary Neal, port general manager, went through a long list of thank-you's Friday during the dedication -- from port commissioners to legislators to businesses and Boardman city officials.
He called the center a team effort.
And, he said, "I think it's going to be a fantastic success from this point forward."
Center hours are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. General admission will be $5, $3 for students and seniors and free for under age 5. Family prices are available.
w Online: www.visitsage.com.
w Sara Schilling: 582-1529; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @saraTCHerald