The $18 million military museum boosters want to build just outside Fort Carson’s gates will be a draw for tourists and show local school kids what World War II was all about — if the group can come up with the cash.
Adjacent to Cheyenne Mountain State Park off Highway 115, boosters believe it will be a huge draw for military reunions and its visitors will plow up to $2.9 million a year into the local economy.
The Mountain Post Historical Center will also help the Army teach recruits about the heroes they’re following on the path.
There are a few problems, though — 17.5 million dollar bill-size problems.
With the economy faltering and big-name organizations going around town with their hands out, organizers of the Mountain Post Historical Center effort are having a difficult time finding the money to build the iconic structure that’s designed for land at Highway 115 and Nelson Boulevard.
“There’s more fundraising going on in this city and state than I’ve ever seen,” said Ed Soriano, a retired three-star general and Fort Carson commander who is leading the museum effort. “There’s probably some donor fatigue out there.”
But with the Army getting behind the effort with a $7.8 million museum support facility, the 6-year-old idea may have new life.
“This gives us some momentum,” Soriano said.
The effort to build the museum started shortly after Fort Carson soldiers joined in the Iraq invasion. While Army posts around the country have their own museums, Fort Carson at that time had an old storage building dedicated to the task. And that facility was easily accessible only for soldiers.
In 2006, the Army kicked in the parcel of land for the museum as organizers started fundraising. The hope back then was that the community would let their wallets yawn wide, and the museum would open to applause — in 2008.
The fundraising goals have gotten more ambitious even as the coffers of the Mountain Post Historical Center have remained virtually barren.
The latest version of the glass-walled museum facing Cheyenne Mountain would run about $18 million and won’t open until 2013.
Over the years, the group has raised about $500,000 and still has more than $200,000 left after paying for initial design work.
The need for a museum at Fort Carson has grown. The arrival of thousands of additional soldiers who came with the 4th Infantry Division move from Fort Hood, Texas, means a bigger on-post audience. And the museum that Fort Carson once housed has since been closed just as hundreds of 4th Infantry Division artifacts from World War I, World War II, Vietnam and Iraq are arriving.
Among the treasures: artifacts from the capture of Saddam Hussein.
The Army came up with a temporary solution, a $750,000 storage facility that will be put up late this year near the museum site.
In 2011, the Army will start work on the permanent storage and museum support building, which will be incorporated into the museum complex, if the donations flow in.
Soriano admits raising the money won’t be easy. Local charities are struggling to meet needs like feeding and housing needy residents. And the museum is competing for money with other local causes like the United States Olympic Committee, which agreed this summer to stay in town in a deal with the city that relies on locals coughing up $4.5 million in donations.
A veteran of the Persian Gulf War, Soriano is optimistic about the museum’s financial battle. In the first skirmish, he wants to raise $500,000 in the next few months.
“We’ve got all the things to make this a viable project,” he said.