The visitor center at Saguaro National Park East - built nearly 60 years ago - is closed for a major renovation and won't reopen until about the end of summer.

Plans call for creating a new auditorium area, improving exhibit space and updating exhibits that have been on display for decades.

The park will remain open during the work, with a temporary visitor-center trailer in the parking lot.

"Times have changed, and it is time to update our exhibits," said Andy Fisher, branch chief of interpretation for the park. "As part of the project, we found it necessary to also update the visitor center."

Reopening of the center is tentatively scheduled for September, but work on updated exhibits will continue well after the reopening.

"We expect the renovated space to house the new permanent exhibit collection by the fall of 2014," Fisher said. "Until then, we plan to host several traveling exhibitions and work from local artists and photographers."

The visitor center, at 3693 S. Old Spanish Trail, was built in 1953. It was expanded in 1959, and exhibits were installed that remained in use until recently.

Park officials said the outward appearance of the building is considered historic and won't be altered.

A cost estimate for the building renovation wasn't immediately available. Fisher said the cost of the updated exhibits will be about $250,000.

Contact reporter Doug Kreutz at or at 573-4192.