National Mounted Warrior Museum construction heads skyward
By LYNETTE SOWELL
Last November, ground was broken on Fort Hood for the future National Mounted Warrior Museum, and now, one can see construction progressing as they drive by.
The structural steel has been installed for the massive rotunda, from which a helicopter will be suspended from the ceiling.
The site for the 28,700-square-foot museum is not far from the Marvin Leath Visitor Center and a stone’s throw from the 1st Cavalry Division stables.
Bob Crouch is the vice president of the National Mounted Warfare Foundation and talked about what it means to see the vision come alive as he walked the construction site. Crouch is one of the ones who has been championing the $38 million project from the beginning, in each phase of the fundraising.
“I came out here and looked up, and just the feel of it…you don’t realize how big it is until you’re standing there. I’ve seen the sketches for years, the concept, that ‘we’re going to work toward this’ and now it’s here,” Crouch said. “There were the hard times, times when we didn’t know if we’d be able to continue, early on.”
The museum is an undertaking more than 10 years in the making.
Planning for the museum began when the National Mounted Warfare Foundation was created in 2011. The foundation was born as the economy was coming out of the recession of 2008.
The museum’s slab was poured, and then structural steel began going vertical in early February 2021. The building is being constructed using ICF, or insulated concrete forms, with cast-in-place concrete walls sandwiched between two layers of insulation material. There’s a lot of concrete in the facility, with 600 yards of concrete for the slab alone. More than 70 concrete piers, up to 52 feet deep, are under the facility. The vertical ICF walls will be 32 feet high, 10 inches thick, which translates into thousands of yards of concrete.
The structure should be dried-in by mid to late May, and Crouch said that substantial completion of Phase 1 should be completed by October 2021, after which time the contractor will spend 30 days going through punch list items.
Presently, phase 1 includes the permanent and temporary exhibit halls, and offices. Phase 2 will involve classrooms and the gift shop. Crouch said that while waiting for the gift shop to be constructed after phase 1 is completed, there will likely be a kiosk, along with online sales.
There will be permanent exhibit space of roughly 13,000 square feet, with seven or eight vehicles inside permanent exhibit space.
Originally, there was to have been an outdoor display, but Crouch explained that the only outdoor vehicle on display will be an M-1 tank. Keeping vehicles outdoors up to shape, to standard, costs about $50,000 every three to five years, per vehicle.
Inside the entryway, there will be a diorama which includes a cavalry rider on horseback, a World War I French tank used by the Americans, and “something that represents the future,” Crouch said.
“Right there, you can get a feel for the history and the future.”
In the temporary exhibits portion of the museum, exhibits will be in place approximately nine months to one year.
Crouch explained that although the building will be done this fall, the exhibits won’t be ready for setup just yet. Crouch said that this fiscal year, the Army has allocated $1,000,000 for exhibit design along with letting the contract for the exhibits themselves. Then, next fiscal year, an additional $1,000,000 will be budgeted for exhibit fabrication and installation.
The timetable for the museum opening is late 2022, or possibly early 2023. In the meantime, Crouch said the building, once completed, will not be unoccupied.
“As soon as we are able to, we will get the vehicles moved in that are being refurbished on post,” Crouch said, adding that there will be special events at the museum.
Crouch said after receiving the building from the contractor, the foundation will turn the keys over to the Army and that the installation will run it, with the two museums on post to be closed and their staff being responsible for day-to-day operations at the new museum.
As for him and the foundation, they will continue their efforts.
“That doesn’t mean we go anywhere. We will keep fundraising for the next phase, work on marketing for the museum, along with special events coordination. For a national museum, you want to be out there.
“This will be the destination activity for central Texas. Nothing else here is going to bring 265,000 visitors per year, with more than 200,000 of those coming from outside the area. Those who understand economic development should be excited that we can bring 200,000 from outside the community who will come to this area and put money into our economy. They may even come here and say, ‘I’d like to move my family here.’”
Last year’s annual fundraising gala was canceled, but the National Mounted Warfare Foundation continues its commemorative brick sales, starting at $100 each. Bricks may be dedicated to any service member who served in any branch of the military and need not have served at Fort Hood.