Archive for Thursday, February 23, 2006

Study finds museum is feasible

February 23, 2006

A feasibility study says if several conditions are met, the proposed Kansas Regional Prisons Museum in Lansing "would indeed be viable, benefiting the city of Lansing and all of Leavenworth County substantially."

The report, compiled by Project Explore, an Overland Park-based consulting group, will be the topic of discussion at a special meeting of the Lansing City Council, scheduled for 6 p.m. today, Feb. 23, at City Hall. A separate City Council work session will follow, at 7 p.m.

The 82-page study, in the works since November, takes a look at the Lansing area and its potential to attract visitors to a prison museum, prison museums elsewhere, other museums in the area and their success and other issues, such as potential funding sources and economic and financial impact of a prisons museum.

City Administrator Mike Smith, who has previewed the report, said the study "was very positive all the way through."

The report, he said, solidified in his mind that "it's not a question of if it's going to happen, but when it's going to happen."

The report was commissioned by the Lansing Historical Society.

"Although there are other 'prison towns' across the country, none has four different kinds of prisons in the immediate vicinity, none has a prison with such broad name recognition and none has such a nucleus of devoted participants in both public and private sectors behind it," the report said.

The consultants set out five conditions for a successful museum:

¢ Governmental and private funds being obtained to build the museum so that there is no monthly building charge;

¢ Free use of the land currently owned by the Lansing Correctional Facility;

¢ Assistance through in-kind donations for the operation of the museum in maintenance, grounds upkeep, security;

¢ Substantial joint marketing with the city of Leavenworth and other local attractions;

¢ Minimal ongoing financial support through fundraising efforts conducted by the nonprofit organizing entity.

Consultants note although it is difficult to develop "discerning true and accurate numbers of tourists on all levels, it remains accurate to say that this museum will appeal to a substantial number of visitors."

Among the factors in drawing visitors to Lansing, the report cites the continued growth and attractions in nearby western Wyandotte County.

Should the museum attract 20,000 people annually - an average of 60 people a day "given a great museum with adequate promotion," the report said - it would spur expenditures in area motels, gasoline stations, restaurants, stores and other area museums. The economic impact could, with visitors staying overnight, be $2.8 million annually, it estimated.

Consultants put the cost of the museum at $2 million - without construction of a planned water feature dedicated to fallen guards. Mayor Kenneth Bernard and Council member Bob Ulin will take the feasibility study to Washington, D.C., next month to see if they can get the support of the city's congressional delegation for federal funding.

"We are taking it to Washington on 10 March, and we will be pitching it there to try to get some money out of the government - everybody else does," Bernard said at Tuesday's grand reopening of the Lansing Historical Museum. "I hope we can get some so that we can proceed with the new museum. The plans are in order, we are ready to go, and I hope it all works out."

Smith said tonight's meeting would allow council members to question Project Explore representatives about the study and learn where the project needs to go from here.

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