Since closing we have made substantial progress with the most visible being the construction of a new perimeter “ring road” with waterfalls and ponds, the exterior demolition and site work preparation for the building expansion, and the completion of the Conservation Education Center / Exhibition Hall. There has also been tremendous physical progress on our new Wildlife Galleries area. However, by far the most significant progress we are making is in the “behind the scenes” development of the complex architectural plans required before each phase of the physical construction can begin. All of these engineering and other development plans continue to advance rapidly with ongoing meetings of the design team and our world-renowned architectural firm P.G.A.V. There is a huge commitment to make sure this project is engineered properly, but it’s also been an eye-opener for me to see the complexity of this redesign that is so unlike the remodeling of a simple office building, home, or other structure.
Phase 1, which includes the Conservation Education Center / Exhibition Hall, will reopen January 2012. The grand reopening of the entire Wonders of Wildlife facility is scheduled for late spring 2013.
As Chairman of the Board, I continue to be impressed with the creativity and commitment for excellence in this project. Thanks to the generous contributions of John Morris and Bass Pro Shops, the museum has been able to develop the plans for a world-class living facility that people from all across the country will want to visit. During these challenging economic times it is important to note that as we embark on our expansion, we are doing so on very sound financial footing. Over the past 5 years the museum has been very fortunate to have received private donations totaling over $19 million in cash plus an additional $2.5 million in pledges, making it possible for us to retire all long term debt and become a debt free institution.
Additionally our ambitious expansion project is being funded almost entirely by additional private cash contributions.
I have proudly volunteered to serve on this board since the beginning, watching the museum grow from a dream to a shared vision to one of the most visited paid museums in America. To be sure, the WOW museum has become a beacon for the proud heritage of hunting and fishing and is a cornerstone for the future of conservation in America. Please know that we have a great fiduciary responsibility as a board, both to create a facility that will greatly enhance tourism revenues to the City of Springfield and to those donors who have trusted us with their contributions to re-create and re-construct a world-class facility. I pledge to keep you updated on progress.