NS Chairman offers $1 million to museum
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Sun Dec 7 17:27:35 EST 2008
Lets fire up the 611 and make money with her pulling charters and making
Christopher J. Bunsey
EX TWA, Current CAL
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Subject: NS Chairman offers $1 million to museum
The railroad official challenged the Roanoke-area community to raise $2
million more for the Virginia Museum of Transportation.
By Kevin Kittredge <mailto:kevin.kittredge at roanoke.com>
When Norfolk Southern Corp. Chairman Wick Moorman offered $1 million to the
Virginia Museum of Transportation on Tuesday night, Bev Fitzpatrick was as
surprised as anyone.
Fitzpatrick, the museum's executive director, was one of about 500 people
listening to the speech by Moorman at the Roanoke Regional Chamber of
Commerce's membership meeting at the Hotel Roanoke. Moorman, according to
those present, offered $1 million and challenged the community to ante up an
additional $2 million for the troubled museum.
"I was there -- in shock," Fitzpatrick said. He said the museum and other
railroad history organizations had been talking to Moorman in recent months
about the need for support. But Moorman had never mentioned an actual
figure, Fitzpatrick said, or indicated he was ready to sign on.
Apparently, he's ready now.
"We're willing to contribute a million dollars to make this museum better,"
said Moorman, in remarks recorded at the event by WVTF Public Radio. "We
want to see a museum here that showcases what generations of people in
Roanoke, people who worked for this company and people who supported this
company, built and are still building today."
"He said, 'I'll give you a million if you raise a million from the local
governments and a million from the private sector in the valley,' "
Fitzpatrick recalled. "We can do a lot of things with $3 million. Once we do
some world-class things to go with those world-class locomotives, our
attendance will go up. We're excited."
Moorman did not immediately return a phone call Wednesday afternoon. NS
spokesman Robin Chapman said a complete text of Moorman's remarks was not
"Mr. Moorman announced last night that Norfolk Southern is offering a $1
million challenge grant for funding capital and operating expenses at the
museum," Chapman said. "He will be meeting with museum officials in the near
future to work out the details."
Roanoke Mayor David Bowers quickly offered his support, asking the city
council to pledge between $500,000 and $1 million to the transportation
"I don't think I need to impress upon anyone the importance of having this
world-class museum in downtown Roanoke," Bowers said in a letter to the
council that was also distributed to the media Wednesday. "It will be a good
thing for Roanokers and for tourists to visit our city."
Bowers did not return phone calls Wednesday afternoon.
The transportation museum has struggled financially and otherwise in recent
years. Its problems were made worse when thunderstorm winds ripped part of
its roof off in July 2006. In January 2007, the museum agreed to sell one of
its prized steam locomotives to help with expenses. A consultant's report
released this year said the museum suffered from lax financial oversight,
outdated exhibits and low attendance, and was disconnected from the
community it serves.
Fitzpatrick said he and members of the National Railway Historical Society
and the Norfolk & Western Historical Society have met with Moorman several
times. Moorman expressed concern early on that rail history buffs in Roanoke
weren't working together, Fitzpatrick said.
"We took it upon ourselves to make sure that didn't happen again,"
Fitzpatrick said, citing the museum's plans to surrender its historical
archives to the Norfolk & Western Historical Society. "We're trying to band
together. We've just come light-years."
Fitzpatrick said he and representatives of the two historical societies will
meet with Moorman on Friday to present their plans for the future. He
declined to release specifics from the plan yet. "We thought very big. We're
all working together. We're all going to do what we can make sure Roanoke
wins and that we make Roanoke a destination" for rail fans.
Chamber chairwoman-elect Kathy Baske Young said the initial reaction to
Moorman's offer was supportive Tuesday night, with a number of people asking
how they could get involved in the fundraising effort. She referred them to
"I think everybody is surprised right now," she said. "It was a lovely way
to end the night."
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