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All aboard: It’s full steam ahead for the Fox River Expansion

Troy Streckenbach, Brown County eExecutive; Mark Murphy, president and CEO, Green Bay Packers; Dave Ward, president, National Railroad Museum; Brigadier General (Retired) Kerry Denson, campaign co-chair, National Railroad Museum; Jacqueline Frank, CEO, National Railroad Museum; Joel Gregozeski Ashwaubenon village manager; Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich; and John Kress of the George Kress Foundation signal the start of work during the May 2 groundbreaking event.
Troy Streckenbach, Brown County eExecutive; Mark Murphy, president and CEO, Green Bay Packers; Dave Ward, president, National Railroad Museum; Brigadier General (Retired) Kerry Denson, campaign co-chair, National Railroad Museum; Jacqueline Frank, CEO, National Railroad Museum; Joel Gregozeski Ashwaubenon village manager; Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich; and John Kress of the George Kress Foundation signal the start of work during the May 2 groundbreaking event. John Craemer photo

BY JOHN CRAEMER/KRIS LEONHARDT

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

ASHWAUBENON – “I wanted to say all aboard,” Brown County Executive Troy Streckenbach said as the National Railroad Museum held its groundbreaking for the new Fox River Expansion on May 2.

“If you think about that tourism that we have, the possibility to couple that with this international brand called Green Bay Packers, we’re building ourselves a robust economy that’s built on tourism, that’s built on hard work.”

The National Railroad Museum dates back to 1958 when it was congressionally designated as a national museum.

“And that one steam locomotive turned into a collection of more than 70 pieces of rolling stock, over 150,000 small railroad items, 33 acres of land, and a partnership between the museum, the city of Green Bay, Brown County, and the village of Ashwaubenon,” said National Railroad Museum CEO Jacqueline Frank.

“Over the last 15 years, we have seen substantial growth. Our attendance has increased to over 100,000 yearly visitors coming from all 50 states and more than 40 countries. Over 12,000 of those visitors take part in education programs.

“This plan includes a four-phase expansion that will eventually bring our collections inside while also connecting our visitors to natural areas outside and providing an engaging environment where learners of all abilities can learn history, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects, art, language and so much more.

“Now, with the support of the state of Wisconsin, businesses, individuals, and so many others, we are ready to break ground on the first phase of this inspiring facility. We are on the cusp of providing educational programs to twice as many students, increasing attendance by more than 50% per year in the first five years, and increasing our economic impact to our community by $20 million additional dollars per year.”

Brigadier General (Retired) Kerry Denson, campaign co-chair, highlighted some of the features of the expansion.

“Let’s start at the museum level. This 1,900-square-foot expansion that’s going to go on the first floor of the new museum will allow us to display more exhibits,” Denson said.

Gov. Tony Evers addresses the community during the groundbreaking held at the National Railroad Museum in Ashwaubenon. John Craemer photo

“Above that first floor will be a 2,600-square-foot mezzanine, which gives us space to host additional events. And it also gives our visitors the opportunity to view these exhibits from up above, looking down, seeing all of the exhibits.

“Imagine wedding pictures taken in front of those very large, two-story windows with the Fox River in the background. The museum is a wonderful place to host weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, and those other family events. We’ll also have additional opportunity for businesses to host their sales meetings, their conferences, and to bring their customers and their guests to our museum.

“We bring the students to this building to teach them a very important piece of American history, and that piece is how America’s railroads opened up the interior of our very large country, allowing it to be developed. Without the railroads, this country would not have become a great country in the early period of time that it did.”

Packer President/CEO Mark Murphy is serving as the honorary campaign spokesperson and said that he would do anything he could to help the National Railroad Museum.

“The museum, in my mind, is one of the real gems in this area, providing a resource and destination not only for people in northeast Wisconsin, for our residents, but also for visitors who come across, not only the country, but all over the world to Green Bay. I’m really looking forward to seeing the expansion, how it will allow the museum to serve more visitors and provide an even greater economic impact to our community,” he said.

“Many fans who visit Lambeau Field also make it a point to visit the museum. We always try to make a connection between the two.”

Dave Ward, National Railroad Museum president and Sturgeon Bay mayor, said that fundraising for the project wasn’t quite completed yet, stating that while donors have been generous, “the past few years of price increases have taken our $15 million project to about $17.5 million, thus increasing the need,” he stated.

“So, to get to that $17.5 million figure, we’ve got work to do to finish the campaign. But today, we’re going to be breaking ground.”

some of that support has come via American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.

“I’m glad we were able to provide the full $7 million investment…,” Gov. Tony Evers stated, “but we know what the economic impact will be even further than just the museum…

“This is exactly the type of project that supports our local, statewide economies, the workforce, and everyone we support as a state.”

The museum announced in March that it had reached $13 million of its now $17 million goal.

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