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Kansas Aviation Museum Seeking Sedgwick County Funding

Kansas Aviation Museum
The Kansas Aviation Museum is located on South George Washington Blvd. near McConnell Air Force Base.

The Kansas Aviation Museum in Wichita is asking Sedgwick County for more financial support.

Museum executive director Tim Norton requested $50,000 from the county to help stabilize the nonprofit museum and take it to the next level.

“Right now it’s a one-time ask to give me a little breathing room to do the things that I think need to be done,” Norton said.

Norton, a former Sedgwick County commissioner, made his case during a county staff meeting on Tuesday.

The city of Wichita owns the historic former municipal airport-turned-museum. The art deco building is located on South George Washington Boulevard and 31st Street South.

Norton says budget cuts and increased revenue from fundraisers and event rentals will help the museum break even this year.

“And that’s good news because we were going to be about $65,000 to $70,000 upside down,” he said.

Norton is working on a strategic plan to boost community support and get more visitors through the door. He also wants to plan year-round fundraising events and take advantage of grant opportunities so the museum can be sustainable.

About 23,000 people visited the aviation museum last year compared to the hundreds of thousands who went to the Sedgwick County Zoo, Botanica or Exploration Place.

“We’ve got a great story to tell. We just have to freshen up the exhibits," Norton said. "We’re going to have to take it into the 21st century, too. We’re not as interactive as we should be.”

He told county leaders he would use the funding for administration, building maintenance and marketing. It’s unclear when the county commission might take a vote.

Sedgwick County commissioners approved a $50,000 grant for the museum last year for a B-52 bomber restoration project.

Norton also requested city support to address an urgent need: The museum’s roof is leaking and needs to be replaced. The building opened in 1935.

Follow Deborah Shaar on Twitter @deborahshaar. To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.

Deborah joined the news team at KMUW in September 2014 as a news reporter. She spent more than a dozen years working in news at both public and commercial radio and television stations in Ohio, West Virginia and Detroit, Michigan. Before relocating to Wichita in 2013, Deborah taught news and broadcasting classes at Tarrant County College in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas area.