LIGO Hanford will soon have its own dedicated visitor center called LExC, for LIGO Exploration Center. The new center, designed by Terence L. Thornhill (Architect) and being built by DGR Grant Construction, is scheduled to open in January, 2022. LExC will be able to accommodate up to 10,000 field-trip students each year, more than doubling LHO's current capacity, in addition to many other public visitors. LExC will house upwards of 50 hands-on/interactive exhibits related to LIGO science and engineering. Credit: Terence L. Thornhill, Architect.

*NEW! LIGO Exploration Center*

Welcome to the LExC Construction Progress page!

Groundbreaking Attendees

Left to right: LExC Construction Manager Tim Doyea from DGR Grant Construction, LExC architect Terence Thornhill, LHO Education and Public Outreach Lead Amber Strunk, LHO Head Mike Landry, and LIGO Associate Director for Operations (and former LHO Head) Fred Raab.

Work has begun on the LIGO Exploration Center (LExC) at LIGO Hanford Observatory (LHO). The facility, designed by Terence Thornhill, Architect, and being built by DGR Grant Construction, will be located just to the east of LHO's current 'public' welcome building, which houses the auditorium, main LHO reception area, and some existing free-standing exhibits. In the next 15 months, however, a new, beautiful dedicated visitor center will become the hub for all LHO visitors.

A groundbreaking ceremony to commemorate the beginning of construction of this long-awaited center took place on October 22. The groundbreaking began with LIGO Hanford Observatory Head, Mike Landry, acknowledging the ancestral land upon which LIGO is situated. Due to COVID restrictions, we were unable to host a large, in-person groundbreaking event. Instead, just five people were on-site to ceremonially turn some dirt. A video of the occasion was made, including separate video clips of congratulatory remarks from government officials and others who supported LHO's bid to build this exciting facility. The 3.5-minute groundbreaking video, and full video statements of all who provided congratulatory remarks, can be found in a news item posted on October 23, 2020.

Building LExC at this time works out well since both LIGO facilities (LHO and the detector in Livinston LA) are currently not operating while another major upgrade to the instruments is being made. As a result, the vibrations caused by construction activities pose no threat to LIGO operations.

Since LHO remains closed to the public thanks to COVID-19, we will keep you posted on construction progress here by regularly uploading photos of the site. We hope you check back every so often to see LExC come to life. We hope to welcome our first visitors in early 2022.

Note that LIGO Hanford Observatory remains closed to the public due to COVID-19 restrictions.

NOVEMBER 6, 2020

LExC construction

Some early materials arriving at the LExC construction site, November 6, 2020.


LExC construction

More equipment is brought in to prepare the site and begin construction













OCTOBER 23, 2020

LExC construction

Early morning shot showing some trenches for utilities and other necessities for LExC.


LExC construction

Construction crews survey the site on October 23, 2020.






















OCTOBER 21, 2020

LExC construction

The site of the LIGO Exploration Center, LExC, at the LIGO Hanford Observatory. The building in the middle-foreground currently serves as LHO's visitor welcome center (housing the main reception area, and auditorium, and a handful of exhibits). LExC will be directly adjacent to that building. In the background is Rattlesnake Mountain. Please note that LHO is not currently open to the public. (Credit: M. Robinson/LHO)


LExC construction

LExC construction crews level and prepare the site so construction can begin. M. Robinson.

LExC construction

LExC construction crews spray water on the construction site to minimize blowing sand. M. Robinson.