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$9.5 million military museum, $6 million hotel coming to Waynesville
$9.5 million military museum, $6 million hotel coming to Waynesville

This military museum and its eagle are expected to be visible up to five miles away from Waynesville.
WAYNESVILLE, Mo. (Jan. 28, 2010) — Following months of work by heavy equipment on the northwest corner of the Exit 156 overpass at Ichord Avenue, Waynesville city officials have announced that what’s now bare dirt and rock will soon become the site of the National Military Artifacts Museum.

Partners in the Waynesville museum project include the owner of the Branson veterans museum; a companion hotel is under contract and will be added later, city officials said.

The $9.5 million museum project in the West Gate Subdivision will feature 16 life-size sculptures by sculptor Fred Hoppe, memorial walls with the names of all servicemembers killed in action for World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and other 20th Century conflicts.

However, the most visible part of the museum will be an 11-story tall copper and bronze eagle, scheduled to be added in 2011. Expected to be visible from up to five miles away, the eagle and an accompanying outside memorial wall with life-size sculptures of modern soldiers in honor of those killed in action during the Operation Desert Storm (the first Gulf War), current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the War on Terrorism are designed to be visible from Interstate 44 and draw visitors into a museum complex that developers predict will draw 150,000 to 200,000 people per year and employ 15 to 20 people.

“It is our hope the eagle will instantly become a symbol of patriotism for the area, and will quickly be recognized nationally as the largest eagle monument in the United States,” according to a press release jointly issued by Waynesville city officials and Havens Commercial, the organizers of the project.

City Administrator Bruce Harrill said he’s sure the eagle will become a landmark for Waynesville and the entire region.

“They should see a large patriotic eagle, a sight that will be visible on the interstate for quite some way,” Harrill said. “I think it will be a very memorable sight along I-44.”

Harrill said the military museum concept has been under consideration for several months.

“We’ve had, of course, the museum owner from the veterans museum in Branson come down … and present this idea,” Harrill said. “There are also plans for a hotel in that area as well, so I think we are going to see a variety of development.”

The owners of the $6 million hotel have not yet been identified, but have obtained a national hotel franchise, according to a press release from Havens Commercial. An extended-stay hotel with 104 upscale rooms and an indoor pool/hot tub facility is planned with construction scheduled to begin later this year. When completed, the hotel is expected to employ 20 people.

At least five more businesses are also planned for the area, developers said, with space for more.

It’s standard policy for cities working with developers to keep key details confidential for an extended period, and Waynesville city officials have held long closed-session meetings to discuss economic development and real estate matters for several years since the Westgate Commercial Subdivision project began. While the local economy in Pulaski County has been strong, Harrill acknowledged that economic difficulties on the national and regional level have slowed progress on the Waynesville project.

“Sometimes the nationwide economy is a little bit slower and often a hotel chain may not be considering expansion under these tough economic times. I think they have to realize, and some of them have realized, that there are some unique opportunities in our community,” Harrill said.

Working with the Branson Veterans Museum owner helped lend credibility to the Waynesville project, Harrill said.

“He has a lot of historic and military artifacts, he knows the museum business, he’s an expert in it, he’s a collector of sculpture. He’s sculpts a lot of his own pieces and he brings high quality to that museum,” Harrill said.

The 14,000-square-foot museum is expected to cost a total of $9.5 million, $3.5 million for the eagle alone. Developers say they expect to have more than a thousand artifacts on display ranging from soldiers’ personal items to numerous weapons representing the types of armaments used during various periods of American history.

A 2,000-square-foot special events room will also be part of the museum with an “Old Western Saloon” theme, including an original 70-foot solid wood bar. The room will be available for rental for events such as graduation parties, reunions and wedding receptions, with those renting the special events room also having access to the military museum.

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