Big Country

Sweetwater WASP Museum expansion approved

Wasp museum expansion

SWEETWATER, Texas - The National WASP WWII Museum in Sweetwater is expanding in a big way after city commissioners approved a multi-million dollar expansion project Tuesday.

WASP stands for Women Airforce Service Pilots. The museum was built in 1929 and was originally the home of the Sweetwater Airport. The museum's mission statement is "seeking to educate and inform all generations with the story of the Women Airforce Service Pilots - the first women to America's military aircraft - who forever changed the role of women in aviation."

According to the museum board, the project is a $5.8 million, 8,400 square foot expansion. It will house the extensive WASP archives, an educational learning center, teaching theater and expansive exhibit area. Previously, the museum's archives had been stored off-site. There will also be two second-story outdoor decks and a catering kitchen to be used for community meetings, receptions and conferences.

The project is being funded from multiple companies and organizations: a $2 million loan from the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development program, a $1 million loan from 3 local banks, and $1.4 million raised by over 40,000 donors from all over the nation.

The remaining $1.4 million will be raised through grants, donations and in-kind gifts, which the museum board hopes will be raised by the end of the year.

The Sweetwater city commissioners unanimously approved the project request, which revised the museum's 200-year lease to complete the expansion to comply with the requests made by the USDA.

The museum board said they hope to start getting bids by the end of the year and begin construction within the first quarter of 2015.

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