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Rural King

$100 million dollar Museum and Tourist attraction announced for Union City

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A $100 million dollar state of the art museum and tourist attraction to be named "Discovery Park of America" was announced today in Union City. Obion County natives Robert and Jenny Kirkland are making the 50 acre museum possible by their donation of tens of millions of dollars over the next 20 years via their "Kirkland Foundation".

The museum is being designed by internationally-renowned Canadian architect Douglas Cardinal, whose previous projects include the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Quebec, and the Edmonton Space and Sciences Centre. Early design sketches of the project show a very ambitious and futuristic looking structure that will definitely stand out from its location along the I-69 corridor that is scheduled for construction starting in 2008 in Obion County.

The project it to have a 50 year view in regards to its development and the proposed structure is to be expandable.

Quote by Robert Kirkland from the Union City Messenger on the project:

"Union City needs to take advantage of I-69. It's the last great hope of the city to stay on the map and make it grow. The best industry we can get is the tourist industry - it is non-polluting, it is a source of sales tax income and it attracts other industries that benefit from the tourist trade," says Kirkland. "We already have a concert series (Community Concert), a community theater (Masquerade Theatre) and a good educational system (the newly-established Union City College Preparatory Magnet School and its attendant elevated educational levels in the lower grades). If education and culture mean anything to a company seeking a location - they need to look at what we offer here."

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Hmmm...interesting. I wonder why they named it "Discovery Park of America", though. That seems to be a bit of an overshoot.

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^I honestly don't know where the name came from, but I would wager its better to oversell than to undersell when marketing a property like this. I get the impression they are going to try to market this as a tourist stop for those traveling through the region, so the more attractive the name the better the lure.

I think it definitely has the potential to become a substantial tourist draw as the rough renderings I've seen were quite ambitious and would definitely draw the attention of visitors passing by on I-69 and/or when viewed in advertising.

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Hopefully they'll see fit to expand the mission to fill the breadth and the stature of the name. But this looks promising.

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I'd much rather see something like this than another Bible Land proposal. Please do keep us posted on the developments here. The possibilities are quite impressive to ponder. If one can use the Smithsonian's Museum of the American Indian as a benchmark, this should prove to be a worthy addition to the landscape and not another Rock City. I like it.

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The project has already picked up some pretty enthusiastic support from the Northwest Tennessee Tourism Agency and the West Tennessee Industrial Association, which would not be unexpected of course. Both are keen on making sure the project is brought to the attention of hotels, restaurants, retail, and other potential businesses so that when "Discovery Park" opens in 2010 the needed associated business infrastructure will be already in place to service the needs of visitors and tourists.

Mike Philpot, executive director of West Tennessee Industrial Association encouraged members of the committee to think on a large scale and reach out to the giants of the tourism industry to form partnerships that could increase the full potential of the project.

Garry Mason, executive director of Northwest Tennessee Tourism stated that huge amounts of state funds for toursim development and promotion has been used for East Tennessee due to the predominance of the Great Smokey Mountian tourist areas, and a lesser extent Chattanooga, as the state's primary tourist region. He noted that he felt that the addition of the Discovery Center of America in NWTN would help even out the funding for West Tennessee. He is quoted in the article as also stating he felt from the tourism standpoint that this project would be huge.

Read the entire article here at Northwest Tennessee Today:

Discovery Park has caught attention of tourism specialists

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The Union City Messenger ran a story today on the vision and concepts Canadian architects Douglas Cardinal, Bret Cardinal and Mark Conley want to explore and develop into the design of the Discovery Park of America.

Excerpt from the article talking about Douglas Cardinal's vision:

He speaks in terms of a structure that can be seen for miles before curious travelers reach a point where they can exit the busy roadways to check it out.

A structure that will literally beg to be explored.

A structure unlike anything conceived before.

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The Union City Messenger's website nwtntoday.com has an interview with Robert Kirland the iniator and primary funder of the non-profit "Discovery Park of America". You can watch the video here: Kirkland Interview. One new interesting insight is that the facility will be energy neutral, with the site's electricity being produced via solar cells and wind turbines.

The UC Messenger states a future interview with the project's architect Doublas Cardinal is planned as well with other individuals involved in the project. Interesting information and insight should be forth-coming from these videos and I thought members here on UP would find these interviews interesting. I will post links in this thread as those interviews come online.

Hope folks will enjoy these video updates in additon to the other updates on the project as they become available.

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This isn't to knock Union City or anything, but would someone really go there to visit a museum? What else is there to do up there? I'm not from the area so I don't know of anything else the area offers. Feel free to fill me in. :thumbsup:

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There should be plenty of ability for this Discovery Park of America to be an state level attraction due to its size and scope whcih should create a natural attraction for tourist trade (esp. families). All it will take is good planning and marketing by state and local officials to incorporate it into the already existing State Tourism advertising campaigns. Plus its key location directly off the I-69 corridor and US 51 will allow it to be an attraction that folks can visit on their way to other desitinations - Memphis, St. Louis, Nashville, Reelfoot Lake, LBL, etc. - or be drawn to right off the interstate due to its impressive design and size which will be quite u

Reelfoot Lake State Park is already a huge tourist draw to Obion County (and NWTN), with LBL/Paris Landing being another major tourist draw in the immediate area of this attraction.

So to answer your question about if anyone would actually go to Union City to visit this attraction I would have to say IMHO the answer is "yes".

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The Union City Messenger has an interview with architect Douglas Cardinal up on their website nwtntoday.com. Its an interesting look into how he envisions the development of the project will unfold. The article also gives the impression that political support is forthcoming to ensure the Discovery Center gets the support on the state and federal level necessary to be as successful as possible.

There is also a picture section up at nwtntoday.com that shows off the persons involved along with a early and very rough design stage model of what the facility might look like conceptually. You can check those pictures out here..

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Ground was broken for the "Discovery Park of America" on July 2nd with over 250 in attendance for the event. A host of local, state, and international government officials were on hand, including the a delegation from the Canadian consulate who were there as the archtect is a notable Canadian - Douglas Cardinal. Notably absent from the ground-breaking of the 100 million dollar facility was Governor Bredesen, who sent his Tourism Commissioner to the event as his representative.

The facility is set to open in 2010 and will be located right off I-69 which should be completed and signed in NWTN within the next 5-6 years. The amazing thing about this facility as mentioned before is that is a privately funded development by Kirkland Foundation, which was established by retired businessman Robert Kirkland and his wife Jenny to give back to the community.

The design and scope of the structure to be built is awe inspiring in its scope and uniqueness for the region to say the least.

The story can be read at nwtntoday.com which is the website for the Union City Messenger.

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What can we compare this project to? Is it going to be a six flags type-of-deal? I am also failing to understand if this is going to be a museum, an amusement park, or both.

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^ It's going to be more of a History Museum/Botanical Garden/Pioneer Village/Science Museum/Aquarium all rolled into one - so I guess something quite unique in regards to it's breadth and scope. Architecturally the Discovery Park building itself will probably be one of the most unique structures in Tennessee, if not the Southeast.

Here is a link to Cardinal's website with renderings of the project and brief overview. It's very out there is design and concept and I think the building itself may be as big of draw as the its contents. Casual passerbys on US 51 (future I-69) won't be able to miss it that's for sure.

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