Marshals Museum announces progress to intermediate fundraising goal

by Tina Alvey Dale (tdale@talkbusiness.net) 976 views 

Rendering of aerial view of the planned U.S. Marshals Museum in downtown Fort Smith.

The United States Marshals Museum (USMM) announced Wednesday (Aug. 7)  it has received gifts of $295,000 in the past two months toward a near-term fundraising goal of $2 million in the “Bring It to Life” campaign.

The GoFundMe campaign was launched in late April and so far, has raised $7,565. However, donations have come into the marshals museum allowing them to update the GoFundMe goal from $2 million to $1.7 million, a page update shows.

USMM Foundation President Alice Alt said the funds raised would pay for a portion of the production costs for the guest experience.

“We are so excited about this opportunity,” Alt said in a press release. “Continuing this effort gives individuals and corporations across the country the chance to be a part of this significant project. Their support will make sure the guest experience is developed sooner rather than later.”

The GoFundMe campaign will continue until the museum’s grand opening, Alt said.

“When team travels nationally telling the museum’s story, we’ll be able to push it,” she said.

Alt and USSM President Patrick Weeks said they are hopeful for a late 2020 grand opening for the museum. The museum still has an outstanding $15 million needed in its capital campaign, $8 million of that is for the museum’s guest experience design and construction, Alt said.

Construction of the museum is still on schedule to be completed by the end of the year despite a 2 ½ week-delay because of flooding and closure of Riverfront Drive in May when the Arkansas River experienced historic flooding.

“It has been an incredibly wet 12 months. CDI contractors has done an amazing job making up as much time as they can considering. The final touches on roof are being done. The windows are going in,” Weeks said. “We’ve had 50 days of rain since (construction began last) August. Plus there was the flood.”

Flood waters never reached the museum during the flood event. According to Weeks, at the highest, it was 30 feet away from the building horizontally, but 3.5 feet below the pad itself. He credited Rick Griffin as the person “leading the charge” to make certain the museum was built out of the 500-year flood area.

“It was not luck. We did not dodge a bullet. It was planned,” Alt said.

CDI Contractors estimate the building construction will be complete in the fall of 2019, a media release from the museum said. A dedication ceremony for the Mary Carleton and Robert A. Young III Building and Samuel M. Sicard Hall of Honor is planned from 10 a.m. to noon Sept. 24 on the 230th anniversary of the U.S. Marshals Service.

“It is going to be a powerful and poignant dedication for us,” Alt said.

Dignitaries will speak, there will be color guard presentations and music and following the formal ceremony, local banks will grill, providing lunch for those attending.

“It’s going to be a grand celebration. We will be giving tours of the lobby and hall of honor. There might be a couple of extra thigs in there,” Alt said.

Tours will be given in shifts, allowing about 100 to go through at a time. The complete Hall of Honor guest experience with interactive exhibits will be completed and on display for the dedication. The United States Marshals Service held a conference here for the retired group of marshals in 2014 because of the ceremonially ground breaking for the museum. That conference will be back in Fort Smith in September to coincide with dedication.

“Come one; come all. It’s going to be a huge party for the community. It will be a somber and reverent because it is the dedication of the Hall of Honor, but of course, it will be a good time.”

The museum’s annual Safe Kids Fair will be held at the facility in November, and the USMM has already booked its first outside event at the facility, Alt said, noting she could not release details of what that even was yet. Once completed the museum will be available for weddings, receptions, proms and events, she said.

“Bearing an act of God, we should have the building completed with the landscaping and everything by end of the year,” Weeks said.

The duo is hopeful for a late grand opening in 2020.

“Three years ago, we had $33 million left to raise,” Weeks said.

“Now we have $15 million, really $8 million as we are fast and furiously writing grants for the other $7 million,” Alt added.

But that money still needs to be raised before anything can begin on building the museum experience, Weeks said. Logistically, with all that will have to be done to complete the interactive exhibits, late 2020 is the earliest for a grand opening.

“That we can say we are ready to call the ball on an $8 million goal. That is tangible. But we still have to raise that $8 million,” Weeks said.

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