NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — The Virginia Living Museum broke ground Thursday on its new Wild Care Center.

The addition of this museum campus, along its outdoor boardwalk trail, will give visitors a glimpse into veterinary medicine, animal care and nutrition. Large windows along a central corridor will show wildlife veterinary care for the museum’s 250 native species.

The center will use sustainable and energy-conserving design features such as recycled materials, exterior glass with bird-strike deterrent features and variable refrigerant flow equipment for its HVAC systems.

The new, 5,000-square-foot center is expected to open to the public next summer.

“The Wild Care Center is a significant step forward in the museum’s 57-year history of connecting people to nature,” said Ashby Kilgore, president of the museum’s board of trustees. “It will inspire visitors to protect the natural world by giving them a deeper understanding of Virginia’s biodiversity and the critical importance of environmental conservation.”

Newport News Mayor Phillip D. Jones and other notable guests were in attendance. Jones called the museum a “incredible asset” for the city since 1966.

“The Wild Care Center will enhance the museum’s reputation as the premier learning laboratory in Hampton Roads,” Jones said.

Museum executive director Rebecca Kleinhample expects the center to be a vital resource for the community and visitors to the region.

“It will be an exciting opportunity to watch the work of, and engage with, professionals working in diverse scientific fields,” Kleinhample said. “And, it will allow us to expand our internship and externship programs for those pursuing careers in natural and medical sciences.”