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New Visitors Center - The Winning Plan

Summary of the Proposal
A non-profit corporation has been proposed to raise funds, build and then operate and manage a new museum and visitor center for Gettysburg NMP. The center would be built on a privately owned 45-acre tract within the park’s boundary. In addition to the Gettysburg NMP museum, archives and visitor center, the facility will include a gallery in which to preserve and display the Cyclorama painting, an electric map/orientation theater, and an expanded Eastern National bookstore.

Related facilities will include a large format cinema showing a film about the Gettysburg Campaign as well as a licensed battlefield guide and tour center, food service, and a Civil War arts and crafts gallery.

The park’s current visitor and cyclorama centers will be demolished, enabling restoration of Ziegler’s Grove and the High Water Mark of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Who Will Construct and Manage the Visitor Center?

A new, non-profit corporation will be created to construct and manage the Visitor Center. The project team to accomplish this task will include the following members:

Project leadership will be provided by Kinsley Equities, under the direction of its President, Mr. Robert Kinsley. The roles of other team participants, as well as potential team members not yet identified, would be specified in the final cooperative agreement between NPS and the new non-profit entity.

Site Selection, Proposed Uses, and Building Design
The NPS Request for Proposal required identification of a specific site, but did not require detailed site plans or building plans. Accordingly, the site and building proposals which are excerpted from the Kinsley Team’s proposal are considered by all parties to be preliminary and subject to further detailed studies, public comment, and negotiations with NPS. The proposed site is now privately owned and has not previously been studied in detail by NPS.

Key issues associated with the site and building proposals which have been identified in initial meetings include the following:

The Kinsley team will form a non-profit corporation in cooperation with NPS. The facility will be owned and operated by the non-profit until the commercial loan is retired - once loans are paid back, the entire facility and the land will be donated to NPS. While it is operated by the non-profit, any excess in rents over the annual operating and maintenance costs of the facility will be donated by the non-profit to NPS.

The $40.4 million needed to acquire the land and build the building will come from a combination of commercial loans, grants and non-profit fundraising. The proposal suggested that approximately $22 million be raised through grants and non-profit fundraising to cover the costs of most of the NPS facilities. The balance was proposed to be raised. The balance was proposed to be raised through non-recourse commercial loans. No funding from NPS will be needed to acquire the land or construct the facility.

The operation and maintenance of the facility will be funded through the leasing of space to long term tenants. The proposal suggests that the non-profit might raise additional endowment funds to help NPS lower its costs of operation and maintenance, once the funds to build it have been raised.

Consideration is being given to questions about the scale of private fund-raising, including whether the project could be feasible without related uses.

Operation and Maintenance
The proposal does not require that a fee be charged to visitors for entrance to the visitor center and museum. Revenue to pay for NPS’ interpretive and curatorial personnel and NPS’ share of the costs of operation and maintenance would be generated through a continuation of the park’s current interpretive fees (for the electric map and cyclorama program). Other revenue would be generated from the operation of the National Geographic film, the tour center and other facilities, and parking fees.

NPS will pay rent to the non-profit foundation to cover the cost of operation and maintenance of the museum and cyclorama center. Other tenants will pay rent designed to cover the amortization of the commercial loans and the costs of operation and maintenance.

Related Facilities
Related (non-NPS) facilities which were incorporated into the Kinsley proposal included the large-format theater, the Licensed Battlefield Guides and tour center, food service, and the Civil War Arts and Crafts Gallery. The proposal describes the food service as a family-oriented cafeteria and a casual restaurant with seating. The tour center is a bus and trolley terminal, accessed from the retail portion of the facility, for departure and arrival or battlefield tour passengers, including those from Gettysburg Tours and other local and out-of-town arriving buses.

A concern for NPS and the public during its review of the proposal will be the need for and appropriateness of the related facilities. Because the site is within the park boundary (even though it is privately owned) NPS must ensure that facilities are suitable and are used for interpretive purposes.

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