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Price tag has grown for North Dakota Military Museum as plans progress

Posted 1/22/24 (Mon)

Fargo, ND, USA / The Mighty 790 KFGO | KFGO

BISMARCK, N.D. (North Dakota Monitor) – Designs for the proposed North Dakota Military Museum are beginning to take shape, with the estimated cost up to $20 million higher than anticipated.

The project committee ordered schematic-level plans for the proposed complex during a meeting this week. Construction is expected to begin in 2025 with completion anticipated in 2027.

The 54,000-square-foot museum gallery and event spaces will be attached to the Heritage Center on the Capitol grounds in Bismarck. 

Now that the designs are becoming more finalized, the committee hopes the new preliminary renditions will assist in the private fundraising effort.

The project was initially estimated to cost about $40 million but has grown to between $54.8 million to $60 million, Bill Peterson, director of the State Historical Society of North Dakota, told the Legislature’s Budget Section in December.

Peterson, who serves on the project committee, attributed the increase to inflation and rising construction costs.

“Things have just gotten exponentially more expensive in the last two years,” Peterson told the North Dakota Monitor. 

He added they believe they’ll have a more concrete price tag once the schematic designs are completed. 

The facility will include a hall commemorating North Dakotans and tribal members who have served in the military for the state and nation. The committee also is proposing an outdoor amphitheater to host military and other events, but that is not included in the estimated project cost.

The 2023 Legislature approved a $20 million line of credit from the Bank of North Dakota. The bill authorizing the funding states the State Historical Society should in 2025 request funding  from Legacy Fund earnings to repay the money. 

The project committee is expected to begin a large private fundraising push now that designs have been approved in an attempt to raise donations to offset the cost of the facility.

Peterson said he and other project committee members wanted to create something North Dakota veterans and residents can be proud of. The project is a partnership with the North Dakota National Guard and the National Guard Foundation.

“We want to make sure it’s the right thing to do for the people of North Dakota, our veterans, and our service members,” Peterson said.

Maj. Gen. Alan Dohrmann, adjutant general of the North Dakota National Guard, said there’s a lot of support out there for the project. Once potential donors see the preliminary designs, committee members anticipate seeing a fundraising boost for the project. 

“People want to see what you are going to build,” Dohrmann said. 

The committee has not released how much private funding has been committed so far.

Dohrmann said he hopes the museum will inspire the next generation of guardsmen, soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and guardians, so the future all-volunteer fighting force of the military remains stable.

Collecting oral history from veterans will continue to be something the new museum wants to focus on, Peterson said.

“We’ve already collected 3,000 veterans’ oral histories at the State Archives,” he said. “We’ll be building on that.”

The State Historical Society will operate the facility once it opens to the public.

“The overlying goals right now are to honor, educate and inspire, and to teach people all about North Dakota’s vast and rich military traditions,” Peterson said.