Grand Island

Grand Island is a city in and the county seat of Hall County, Nebraska, United States. The population was 48,520 at the 2010 census.

Grand Island is home to the Nebraska Law Enforcement Training Center (NLETC) which is the sole agency responsible for training law enforcement officers throughout the state, as well as the home of the Southern Power District serving southern Nebraska.

Grand Island has been given the All-America City Award three times (1955, 1967, and 1981–82) by the National Civic League.

Grand Island is the principal city of the Grand Island Micropolitan Statistical Area, which consists of Hall, Merrick, and Howard counties.

Geography and climate

Grand Island is located in Nebraska. 40°55′20″N 98°21′29″W / 40.922316°N 98.357996°W / 40.922316; -98.357996.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 28.3 square miles (73 km2), of which 28.2 square miles (73 km2) is land and 0.1 square miles (0.26 km2) (0.60%) is water.


In 1857, thirty-five German settlers left Davenport, Iowa, and headed west to Nebraska to start a new settlement on an island known by French traders as La Grande Isle, which was formed by the Wood River and the Platte River. The settlers reached their destination on July 4, 1857, and by September had built housing using local timber. Over the next 9 years, the settlers had to overcome many hardships, including blizzards and conflicts with Native Americans.

Surveyors from the Union Pacific Railroad laid out a town called Grand Island Station and many settlers living on Grand Island moved to the new town, located slightly inland from the island. In 1868 the railroad reached the area, bringing increased trade and business. By 1870, 1,057 people lived in the town and in 1872 the town was incorporated as Grand Island.

In about 1890, sugar beets were introduced as a crop in Nebraska. The first sugar beet processing factory in the United States was built in the southwest part of Grand Island.

1980 tornadoes

On June 3, 1980, Grand Island was hit by a massive supercell storm. Through the course of the evening, the city was ravaged by seven tornadoes, the worst of which was rated F4 on the Fujita Scale. The hardest hit area of town was the South Locust business district. There were five deaths as a result of the tornadoes.

Tornado Hill is a local landmark created as a direct result of the tornadoes. Debris that could not be recycled were burnt near Fonner Park and buried within Ryder Park, on the west end of town. The base of the hill was a hole 6–8 feet deep and nearly 200 feet across, and the hill is 40 feet high. It is used for sledding in this naturally flat area.

A book, Night of the Twisters, by Ivy Ruckman, and movie were based on this event.


As of the census of 2000, there were 42,940 people, 16,426 households, and 11,038 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,000.2 people per square mile (772.2/km2). There were 17,421 housing units at an average density of 811.5 per square mile (313.3/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 86.72% White, 0.42% African American, 0.33% Native American, 1.31% Asian, 0.17% Pacific Islander, 9.64% from other races, and 1.42% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 15.94% of the population.

There were 16,426 households out of which 34.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.0% were married couples living together, 10.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.8% were non-families. 27.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.55 and the average family size was 3.09.

In the city the population was spread out with 27.0% under the age of 18, 9.5% from 18 to 24, 28.6% from 25 to 44, 20.8% from 45 to 64, and 14.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females there were 98.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.0 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $36,044, and the median income for a family was $43,197. Males had a median income of $28,925 versus $20,521 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,071. About 9.9% of families and 12.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.7% of those under age 18 and 8.1% of those age 65 or over.

State Fair

In 2010 Grand Island became the home of the Nebraska State Fair.


Interstate 80 is located 4 miles south of the city. US Highway 281 is the main north-south route in the city, running through the city's west edge to Hastings to the south and O'Neill to the north.

Central Nebraska Regional Airport is located in Grand Island. On September 4, 2008, Allegiant Air began nonstop service from Grand Island to Las Vegas, Nevada. The airport also provides service to Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas; Phoenix, Arizona; Denver, Colorado; and Kansas City, Missouri.

Grand Island used to have a trolley that ran just east of the Grand Island College (now the location of Grand Island Senior High). The trolley ran from Capital Ave and Lafayette down to Waugh street. It turned east on Waugh and ran to Grand Island Avenue. It then turned south on Grand Island Avenue and ran where the median is now located. The trolley line terminated at the Grand Island and 13th street intersection. The trolley line was used as a "school bus" for college students to get to the former college.


Grand Island has two hospitals; Saint Francis Medical Center and Veterans Affairs Hospital (VA Hospital). Saint Francis Medical Center has been in the community for about 100 years, and was remodled in 2007 with a newly built 9 story Patient Tower. The VA Hospital is one of three in the state of Nebraska (the other two being in Omaha and Lincoln), which serves as the hospital for the Veterans of war.


Grand Island is a major hub for shopping in Central Nebraska. The Conestoga Mall is a shopping mall in the city and the historic downtown area features many shops, furniture stores, antique stores and unique restaurants.

Grand Island in the news

On December 12, 2006 the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E) staged a coordinated predawn raid at the Swift and Co. meat packing plant in Grand Island and at five other Swift plants in western states. They interviewed workers and took away suspected illegals in number.

A February 16, 1952 issue of Look Magazine listed Grand Island as one of 26 cities that tolerated sinful behavior. After this issue, Grand Island took measures to clean up its image.

School districts

  • Grand Island Public Schools

Grand Island Northwest Public Schools

High schools

  • Central Catholic High School
  • Grand Island Senior High School
  • Heartland Lutheran High School
  • Northwest High School

Notable natives

  • Edith Abbott, social worker
  • Grace Abbott, helped draft the Social Security Act
  • Bil Baird, puppeteer
  • Bo Evans, computer pioneer
  • Joe Feeney, tenor on the The Lawrence Welk Show
  • Henry Fonda, Academy Award–winning film actor.
  • George J. Marrett, test pilot
  • Mary Martin McLaughlin, medieval history scholar.
  • John Parrella, NFL player
  • Tom Rathman, former NFL player

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