As the National Mounted Warfare Museum marches slowly towards opening to the public, the foundation responsible for facilitating its construction has asked the city of Killeen to continue helping to promote the multi-million dollar project.
The museum aims to be a national landmark that will tell the story of the men and women who have served at Fort Hood and in mounted warfare — from horses to modern battle tanks. The museum, located outside Fort Hood’s main gate near the visitor’s center, also aims to be a landmark to attract tourism to the Killeen-Fort Hood area in a way that has not been seen before.
Officials expect the museum to bring in hundreds of thousands of visitors per year, most of them who live outside the area, according to National Mounted Warfare Foundation, the fundraising arm of the museum.
“Estimates suggest 265,000 people will visit the Museum in the first year, with 74% of the visitors projected to come from outside the Killeen-Temple” metro area, according to the museum’s website.
Projections varied wildly, but a spokesman for the foundation, Clarence Enochs, provided the Killeen City Council last week with a rough estimate of anywhere from $9.4 million to $54 million in regional economic impact, annually. The American Alliance of Museums indicates that museum-goers spend a minimum of $25 per visit within the community, while the Office of the Texas Governor’s Economic Development and Tourism Office estimates travelers staying in hotels and other lodging spend an average of $144 per person, per day.
Museum officials said they began holding events in the building in recent months, and plan a grand opening for summer 2023.
In 2020, the $38 million project broke ground at Fort Hood after being in planning for 10 years, the building was complete in late 2021.
The new museum is expected to grow in size in subsequent phases, officials said. It is being built outside Fort Hood’s security fence, meaning visitors will not have go through a Fort Hood gate to get to it — which is important for tourists who want to avoid the hassle of getting through Fort Hood’s guarded gates.
The foundation continued its annual request for approval of a reimbursable $80,000 in Hotel Occupancy Tax funding during a special Killeen City Council meeting last Tuesday. The city provides those funds as part of a “community partnership.” With the funds, the city pledges to allow the foundation to request reimbursement of up to and no more than $80,000 in HOT funds, so long as they are used to promote the project.
Killeen Mayor Debbie Nash-King explained that the National Mounted Warfare Foundation is a private organization with whom the city has partnered to establish the museum.
So far, the foundation has used a portion of these funds to facilitate its advertising efforts in the form of billboards across the United States and in airports. According to Enochs, Killeen is mentioned on each of the billboards which have been displayed in Georgia, Alabama, Washington, D.C., and other tourist destinations.
“We really do try to focus on bringing in tourists, those outside the main service area, to the local area,” Enochs said.
Councilman Michael Boyd asked that the foundation include more detailed data regarding its advertising efforts, including where advertisements are located, what they look like and how much has been paid for each advertisement. Enochs clarified that the number of impressions on each advertisement is listed in the foundation’s quarterly report to the city. Moving forward, Boyd asked that the quarterly report be presented to council members, saying “this was the first I’m hearing of a quarterly report.”
Most of the work now at the museum is getting the inside displays ready for next year’s opening.
“We are thrilled to have completed Phase I construction on the museum and anticipate opening our doors to visitors in the Summer of 2023 once the exhibits are installed. The U.S. Army has generously allowed us to build the museum on 17 acres near Fort Hood’s main gate, allowing easy access for visitors and military members,” according to the museum’s website.
As part of the National Mounted Warrior Museum, the two museums on post, the 1st Cavalry Division Museum and the 3rd Cavalry Regiment Museum, will close and move into the new museum building.
Retired Lt. Gen. Paul Funk, the president and CEO of National Mounted Warfare Foundation, said previously the museum would be receiving some exhibits from the 1st Cavalry Division and 3rd Cavalry Regiment museums.
“We still have to get the exhibits put together, and the Army is working on that,” Funk said last year. “The exhibits should be ready by late 2022 or early 2023.”
Larry Mitchell, ABR, CRS, GRI
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