By editorial board • 

Museum’s new makeup to ease operations, increase exposure

The writing was on the wall for many years: the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum campus built too much, and tried to operate too many projects for an education-based nonprofit entity.

Museum founder and Evergreen Aviation mogul Del Smith bankrolled the construction of a theater, a water park and a chapel, and had a hotel in the works when he passed away in 2014. Those are the assets of a massive recreation and entertainment business, a role forced upon the museum board and nonprofit landlord Michael King Smith Foundation. The campus was left with a sprawled mix of nonprofit and for-profit entities and missions, and with a hefty debt.
That’s a history the museum and its new partial landlord, Falls Events Center, are eager to put behind them, and the community should do the same. Additional museum facilities are owned by another landlord, George Schott.

The Falls Event Center, partly owned by Oregon native Steve Down and listing 10 locations throughout the west, will employ a local team to turn the water park, chapel and again-to-be-built hotel into a for-profit entity that maximizes the buildings’ potential.

Museum Interim Director Ann Witsil said the company likely will name its local entity Falls McMinnville, and is eager to become a major supporting part of the community’s business and tourism industries. The new venture can introduce itself to McMinnville with a relatively clean slate. It’s an opportune time with the emergence of Visit McMinnville, but in a community needing new growth in its industrial and commercial sectors. 

Meanwhile, the museum can refocus on what museums do. The museum board will operate under its desired mission: “To inspire and educate, promote and preserve aviation and space history, and honor the patriotic service of our veterans.”

The museum will continue to host its own fundraising events and lease space for others like the annual McMinnville Wine and Food Classic, known as Sip! There will be a need to increase funding in other areas because the museum will be without water park revenue. Falls will donate funds in the near term to offset the shortfall. The museum will be able to market its facilities to spillover visitors to Falls events. Most importantly, putting the past few years behind it will allow the museum to approach potential donors with renewed confidence and a steadied pitch for its educational endeavors.  

For the first time in years, the future is fairly clear for the Evergreen campus, which in itself is worth celebrating.



Delford Smith died in 2014.

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