Author Topic: ITM wins $200,000 grant for staff/office - Noblesville Ledger Dec 19th 2006  (Read 986 times)

CHomko

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Posted 11:13 PM December 18, 2006
$200,000 to stoke train museum's future
Money will create professional staff that operates from office space at Fishers Depot.
 

By Chris Sikich
Chris.Sikich@TheNoblesvilleLedger.com
December 19, 2006

NOBLESVILLE -- The Hamilton County Convention and Visitors Bureau will give $200,000 to the Indiana Transportation Museum (ITM) to help the volunteer-run train museum embark on a new journey.

"We are working with the Indiana Transportation Museum on a plan of action to make it a professional organization," said Brenda Myers, the visitors bureau's executive director. "It's pretty much all volunteers now, and we want to help them get to the point where they have a professional staff and ratchet up their volume of work."

She said a marketing study showed that the ITM is the No. 1 rated destination point in Hamilton County. The ITM, which offers train rides out of Fishers Train Station and Hobbs Station in Forest Park, impacts several communities, including Fishers, Noblesville, Cicero, Atlanta and Arcadia.

Old- fashioned travel from town to town is not offered anywhere else in the Midwest, she said.

The ITM will receive half the money in 2007 and half in 2008. The visitors bureau also is providing the organization with new digs. The ITM will open an office at Fishers Train Station in January, although administration and trains will remain based at Forest Park.

The space at Fishers Train Station became available after a three-way swap. The bureau moved into its new 4,500-square-foot building at 370 E. Main St. in Carmel on Dec. 11. The building and office furniture cost $800,000.

The Fishers Chamber of Commerce moved into the bureau's old 2,000-square-foot office at Fishers Train Station. The ITM and the visitors bureau will share the chamber's former 1,000-square-foot office at the train station.

Art Hall, who was elected chairman of ITM's board in November, plans to hire a part-time office person for Fishers Train Station before the 2007 season opens in April. The museum now has three paid employees to do mechanical work, but no paid administrative staff. The ushers and other museum members who dress in character for museum events like the sold-out The Polar Bear Express are all volunteers, he said.

Hall, who's president of the board of zoning appeals and founder of the economic development committee in Cicero, hopes to help the museum thrive in the future.

"We want to become more visible in the community," Hall said. "We are right now in the very early stages of planning to try to expand and provide important services."

The reservation process for next year's season may be changed so it can be done online or through the Fishers office. He also would like to add train rides from Tipton to Fishers during the Indiana State Fair.

"We are open to anything right now," Hall said. "We hope we are starting a period of growth, and we really hope to see some stuff in the next couple of years."

Hall replaces longtime board chairman David Wilcox, who Hall believes was chairman for nearly 10 years. Wilcox did not return a phone message left at his home.

Wilcox, Hall said, is still "very much involved. He has been invaluable to this organization."

The Fishers Train Station also could gain a center in its lobby with information about the history of trains in the county. The ITM hopes to rejuvenate the large picture of the Nickel Plate 587 engine, and to open a small gift store.

Hall, who became involved with the board in the past year, said ITM's big plans wouldn't be possible without outside help.

"The visitors bureau is the driving force behind the expansion of the ITM," he said. "Without Brenda and the visitors bureau, we wouldn't be anywhere near where we are."

 Tourism funding

The Indiana Transportation Museum isn't the only beneficiary of the Hamilton County Convention and Visitors Bureau. The bureau will announce the recipients of another $375,000 in grants this week, said Brenda Myers, executive director. That wouldn't have been possible, she said, without the county council's decision Dec. 6 to raise the innkeeper's tax on the county's 33 lodging properties from 3 to 5 percent.

The visitors bureau also plans to release another $85,000 in 2007 in marketing and sports grants.
 

Call staff writer Chris Sikich at (317) 444-5545.
Chris Homko