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Caterpillar Plans $37M Visitor’s Center

Wed May 16, 2012 - National Edition

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) The $37 million Caterpillar Visitors Center is on schedule to open the same day as its next-door neighbor, the $100 million Peoria Riverfront Museum.

Save the date. It’s Oct. 20, 2012.

With a world-class hotel tied in with the expanded space at the Peoria Civic Center and the two new shiny metal-and-glass buildings that fill up Museum Square, “Peoria has some extremely positive things to talk about for residents and for people who come to visit,” said Jim Baumgartner, director of public affairs of Caterpillar Inc.

Baumgartner and company spokeswoman Kathryn Spitznagle led a tour through the center May 2.

The tour required safety glasses, hard hats, close-toed shoes and a lot of imagination. While it is 60 percent complete, the building now more resembles a construction zone than the company’s future global showcase for its heritage, products and services.

Buckets of paint are clustered on unfinished floors. Sheets of gypsum board are stacked against unpainted walls. The building currently is lit by sunshine and construction lamps attached to electrical cords that hang temporarily beneath unfinished ceilings and exposed HVAC duct work. But the spaces are taking shape.

The center will have exhibits and features that represent all facets of the Caterpillar experience; product development and design; a heritage gallery; a tribute to workers around the world; a theater inside a life-size replica of a two-story tall, 380-ton 797 mining truck; and a makeup of an actual construction site with at least 10 Caterpillar tractors and machines on display. A construction trailer will hold several simulators of Caterpillar products that visitors will be able to operate. An expanded Caterpillar merchandise store welcomes visitors at the front of the building.

The top floor, with the best views of the river, with floor to ceiling windows on the back of the building, will have office space, a conference room and kitchen and dining areas. It will not be accessible to the general public.

Baumgartner said the building was designed to be used and seen by a variety of visitors — school groups, Caterpillar dealers and customers and regular folks off the street with an interest in the company, its people and its products. An admission price has not been set and it will include exemptions for dealers, customers and the elderly, Baumgartner said.

“We’re all pretty excited about what this has turned into,” he said.

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