The Chico Air Museum of Chico, California presently rents space within a city-owned building and outdoor space at Chico Municipal Airport which is being condemned. The museum has set it’s sights on another city-owned building, a 15,500 square foot hangar that dates back to World War Two when the airport was the Chico Army Air Field and which would greatly expand the museum’s capacity to display its collection indoors. The hangar which the museum wishes to move to has some significant issues though, most significantly it is in need of a re-roof, which is estimated to cost $200,000.
The museum has been in operation for eight years and has posted increasing visitor counts for every year it has been open and the city, recognizing the value of the museum to the local economy is amenable to the idea of providing the new roof but there is some concern that the non-profit might be biting off more than it can chew with such a large facility in need of so much work, though the museum is planning to phase renovations on a pay as they go basis, opening portions of the facility to the public in phases as each section becomes fit for use.
At a recent meeting with city officials and airport commissioners, Chico Air Museum Vice President, Norm Rosene further noted that in addition to the tourist dollars the museum brings to the city, there is the educational value that the museum provides to area children in this relatively unpopulated region of the state, giving many of them what might be their only chance to get up close to an aircraft, or even sit in the cockpit, exposing youth to the inspirational and aspirational aspects of historic aircraft that fosters interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, often referred to as the STEM fields that will are so critical for the economy of the future.
In the end, the city presently has a facility that is unlikely to be put to use by the private sector, for whom the WWII-era hangar’s vintage is a significant drawback, whereas the museum views the historic nature of the structure as an advantage. The museum is anticipating that the change in venue will attract more visitors which will then in turn provide the needed revenues to expand the exhibition space, attracting more visitors, but the investment will require some faith in this business plan by city government.