The museum is hoping to delay the sale and has posted this notice on its website:
“We have been notified that our landlord, the Michael King Smith Education Foundation, has received a writ of execution on the sale of both the Space Museum and Wings & Waves Waterpark. The Foundation is a separate entity that owns buildings on the Museum Campus including the Space building, chapel and the Evergreen Wings & Waves Waterpark.
The Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum is an independent non-profit organization. Museum Management is actively working on solutions to address this situation with the landlord. Visitor count at both the Museum and Waterpark is strong, and the Museum is profitable. We will continue to operate as usual and look forward to welcoming our guests.”
Spruce Goose as seen from outside the museum – Courtesy Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum
In McMinnville, Ore., the financial troubles of a private aviation services company are causing big headaches for the museum that is home to Howard Hughes’ H-4 Hercules, the flying boat better known as the Spruce Goose.
On Dec. 31, Evergreen International Airlines, a subsidiary of troubled Evergreen International Aviation, filed a petition for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The possible demise of the cargo carrier has tourists, aviation buffs and many in the museum world concerned about the fate of the affiliated Evergreen Air & Space Museum.
In Oregon’s wine country, about 40 miles southwest of Portland, the museum welcomes about 150,000 visitors a year. The collection includes everything from a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird to a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress.
But the centerpiece of the collection is undoubtedly the original Spruce Goose.
Built primarily of lightweight birch because of World War II restrictions on metals, the airplane has the world’s largest wingspan (320 feet) and made its only flight—of less than a mile—on Nov. 2, 1947, with Hughes himself at the controls. It then was put in storage.
During the 1980s, the craft was displayed under a dome in Long Beach, Calif., next to the Queen Mary cruise ship. Disney briefly managed that money-losing complex. In the early 1990s, however, the Spruce Goose was shipped to Oregon in pieces and reassembled inside a new building at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum.
Although an Oregon Department of Justice investigation is underway into possible inappropriate commingling of company and museum funds, officials at the museum have issued statements reassuring the public that the artifacts, especially the Spruce Goose, are safe; that the museum is an independent, financially stable nonprofit; and that, with its adjacent aviation-themed water park, it remains open for business.
Still, “there has been some confusion,” said Judiaann Woo, director of global communication at Travel Oregon.
“People just hear a bit of the story and think, ‘Oh, that’s closed. Let’s go somewhere else,’ ” she said. “But this is a major attraction that people from all over the world come to see, so we want to make sure the public knows it’s still there.”
Others in the aviation and museum world feel the same way.
Spruce Goose inside the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum. Photo courtesy of the museum.
“This is the museum that stepped up to save the Spruce Goose at a time when one of the possibilities was for it to be cut up and pieces of it sent all over the world,” said James Kidrick, president and CEO of the San Diego Air & Space Museum.
He considers a visit to the Spruce Goose to be “one of those boxes you’d want to check off if you have an interest in science, space, aviation and things that made this nation great,” he said. He hopes the museum does not suffer too much negative fallout from the financial woes of Evergreen International Aviation.
If it does, it won’t be the first—or the last—museum to stumble.
“We do hear of museums having difficulty, and many small museums have closed throughout the years,” said Ford Bell, president of the American Alliance of Museums. “But rarely is it one with a major collection like the one in McMinnville.”
But it does happen. In December, financial problems forced the Higgins Armory Museum in Worcester, Mass., to close after 83 years of operation. It housed one of the world’s important collections of arms and armor.
Most of its treasures are being transferred to the Worcester Art Museum and will remain accessible to the public, but “the concern we have when a museum is in financial trouble is for the collection,” Bell said. “We don’t want collections to disappear and become inaccessible to the public.”
And most communities don’t want a local museum to close its doors.
“Museums are tremendously important economic engines for their communities,” Bell said. “So in the case of the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in Oregon, I would encourage people to go visit it now and hope that they figure out a way to make sure it remains viable.”
(My story about the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum first appeared on CNBC Road Warrior)
The museum is best known for being the home of the giant Howard Hughes HK-1 “Spruce Goose,” which made a short, single flight back in November, 1947, as well as a wide variety of spacecraft, helicopters and military, commercial and personal aircraft. An extensive firearms collection, historical artifacts, an IMAX 3D theater and many educational exhibits are also on-site.
So while it may seem strange that an aviation museum would build its own water park, it makes perfect sense that an aviation-themed water park is what got built.
And the aviation-theme is impossible to miss: the new Wings and Waves Waterpark has as its centerpiece a Boeing 747-100 airplane mounted on the roof of a 60-foot tall building.
Inside the building, there are colorful, scream-inducing slides, a giant wave pool, a water vortex and a multi-level play structure with slides, water guns, spouts and buckets and a helicopter that hovers overhead and occasionally dumps 300 gallons of water on those below. The park even has its own museum: the H2O Museum has more than two dozen interactive exhibits and explains concepts such as Bernoulli’s Principle, the water cycle and jet propulsion.
Splashdown Harbor, the 91,000 wave pool, sits in the center of the waterpark and offers swimmers eight different wave motions as well as depth charges and bubblers. A 20-foot wide high-resolution video screen by the pool is slated to show everything from NASA splashdown videos to feature films during the park’s planned “Dive-in” movies events.
And, then, of course, there are the rides. The park has 10 water slides, with four main slides coming directly out of the belly of the rooftop airplane. The yellow Sonic Boom slide, with its open top, is designed for novice riders. The green Nose Dive is just that: a two-person inner-tube ride that starts with a big drop and winds its way to the pool. The fully-enclosed blue Tail Spin speeds riders through a series of tight, figure-eight, high banking curves. And then there’s the Mach 1: described as a “test your mettle ride,” this high-speed, enclosed-body slide requires riders to descend 60 vertical feet on their backs, with their arms and legs crossed.
Sound like fun? Here are the details:
The Evergreen Wings and Waves Waterpark sits just west of the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, which is 3.5 miles southeast of McMinnville, Oregon, on Highway 18. It’s about an hour from Portland and 40 minutes from Salem.
The museum is well-known for being the current home of Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose, the largest airplane ever built, but it’s claim to fame may change a bit now that the Wings & Waves Waterpark is sending squealing visitors down four giant slides that start inside a Boeing 747 mounted on the roof of a 60-foot-tall building.
“To get kids’ attention these days you need to more interactive. It’s all ‘Been there; done that; got the T-shirt.’ So we built an aviation and water museum with slides it in,” explained Evergreen Aviation museum’s executive director Larry Wood.
Exhibits and artifacts explain concepts such as Bernoulli’s principle, the water cycle and jet propulsion. Rides include the Nose Dive inner tube ride, the Mach One slide that descends 60 vertical feet and a ride that Dave Garske of Hoffman Construction, the park’s builder, calls “a man-screamer. It’s fast and you’re screaming and you’re readjusting your suit when you get to the bottom.”