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New $46 Million Aircraft, Space Gallery Set to Open in Late 2015

Five companies compete to construct a museum that reaches to the sky.

Sat June 15, 2013 - Midwest Edition
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Dayton, Ohio (AP) A new $46 million aircraft and space gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force is scheduled to open in late 2015, with five companies competing to build it.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will select the winning bid for construction of the 224,000 sq. ft. (20,810 sq m) building for the museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton. The building, to house rare presidential and research and development aircraft, spacecraft and cargo planes, is expected to promote tourism, according to museum Director John Hudson.

“We know it will boost attendance,” said Hudson, a retired Air Force lieutenant general. “We are confident that is going to be a big attraction.”

Museum officials did not release estimates on how much the expansion is expected to increase attendance, the Dayton Daily News reported. More than 1.2 million people visited the museum last year.

Hudson said the exact cost of the building won’t be known until the contract is awarded later this year. The Air Force Museum Foundation has raised $38 million to pay for the expansion, and will continue raising money after construction begins, according to Mona Vollmer, the foundation’s chief development officer.

Bids for the construction are due Oct. 2, with the work scheduled to begin next year.

“The bottom line is we’re moving forward and we’re on track with our plans for the fourth building,” said Hudson.

The lowest priced bidder may not be the winning contractor, according to the newspaper.

“The award will be made to the contractor whose proposal has been determined by the source selection evaluation board to have provided the best value to the government,” the Corps of Engineers said in an email to the newspaper.

Four presidential planes and numerous research and development aircraft will be moved to the main complex from a hangar on Wright-Patterson that is temporarily off limits to museum visitors.

A tough fundraising environment and environmental studies forced officials to push back earlier plans to have the new building open in mid-2014.

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