The Western Museum of Mining & Industry has plans for a new venue that will bring added revenue to the museum and help fulfill expansion in the near future. WMMI also expects to sell 4.5 acres to the Colorado Department of Transportation for the extension of north Powers Boulevard to help defray costs of the new building.
WMMI’s Board of Trustees approved the new events center — a 10,000-square-foot steel building that will include a full kitchen and catering capability — at its meeting last month.
“We could host weddings almost every weekend, except we don’t have a kitchen or the space,” said WMMI Director Rick Sauers. “The new events center will allow us to host more events, 12 months a year. I’d say the sky’s the limit.”
A two-story addition to the 12,000-square-foot WMMI is also planned. Sauers said that expansion would allow for the display of a “1920s mining company machine shop in working order.”
WMMI opened in 1970 on land that is now east of Voyager Parkway, a site that is now home to the museum’s storage facility.
“Colorado Springs has grown up around that area,” Sauers said.
That 20-acre parcel includes 4.5 acres that Sauers said is in the process of being sold to CDOT to help finance the new events center.
“We’ve started the ball rolling with CDOT, and that should be finalized in early to midsummer,” he said. “Then we’ll know how much we’ll need to finish the events center; we’re still in the design phase for it, so we’re not sure how much cost we’re looking at.”
The museum is now located on 27 acres at 225 Northgate Blvd., just off Interstate 25, also the proposed site of the new events center, which will feature facades on the west and north outside walls that depict typical mining town buildings such as a blacksmith shop, assay office, bank and saloon. The museum is seeking corporate sponsors for those facades.
Sauers said the new events center would enable the museum to host larger events, including its science, technology, engineering and mathematics-related classes and related functions. He said it could also be rented out for other outside ventures like reunions and even a farmer’s market.
“This new center could give us a good financial base,” Sauers said.
He said the Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce is among the groups that are enthusiastically supporting the new events center. Because revenue produced by the new building will not support the museum’s mission, Sauers said a “Friends of WMMI” would be formed to manage the new facility.
He said the nonprofit WMMI operates on an annual budget of $350,000-$400,000 — but that doesn’t include the restoration work being done at the Reynolds House, which was built in the 1890s by Joseph and Sarah Reynolds and is on the State Register of Historic Properties.
Sauers said the State Historical Fund, which is funded by casino money, is working with WMMI on a series of three grants to renovate the house.
Phase I, in 2017, stabilized the foundation and basement. Phase 2, coming in 2018, installs a new roof, removes peeling lead-based paint and repaints the entire exterior, and fixes the windows and doors. In 2019, Phase 3 will renovate the interior.
The total cost will be roughly $400,000, with three-quarters from SHF funding and the remaining quarter coming from museum fundraising. Sauer said WMMI has partnered with the Palmer Lake Historical Society, El Pomar Foundation, and local Questers chapters to raise money.
Sauers said that Joseph Reynolds “owned at least two dairy farms in the area and was a member of the state Legislature. He was a Pennsylvania Civil War veteran. Lazard Kahn owned the home from around 1909-30. He was a well-known mineral dealer and collector, founder of the Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society (still going strong); his tombstone in Evergreen Cemetery looks like a piece of Kahnite, a chalky white mineral named after him. The museum purchased the property in the early 1970s and eventually moved operations to our current 27 acres.
“I’m going to nominate the house for the National Register of Historic Places next year. I think we have a good shot at getting it included, which will bring us a lot of national publicity.”
Sauers said the plans for renovation and new construction are exciting, and he hopes will increase the visibility of WMMI.
“It’s wonderful to be moving forward,” said Sauers, who has been at the museum for five years. “The museum has been in a holding pattern for many years. This will get us into the 21st century. This is probably the best mining museum in the West, but people don’t realize we’re here.”
The museum is open six days a week, not including Sundays, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with the exception of New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.