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Chanute Air Museum Lays Groundwork for New Museum

The heads of the Chanute Air Museum in Rantoul want to build a new facility, possibly breaking ground in about three years. Initial plans include hiring of an architectural engineer to complete a study on a building of roughly 700,000 square feet. The current facility is 100,000, with most of that space occupied by a hangar full of planes. The project got a boost last night with the Senate passage of an appropriations bill now awaiting the President's signature. It includes more than $118,000 for the museum, funds that Senator John McCain referred to in his list of top 10 'pork' projects on his Twitter web site recently. Urbana Congressman Tim Johnson supported the funding. Museum Executive Director Hal Loebach says facilities at the old Air Force Base's Grissom Hall are 'literally falling down', with glass panes coming out of windows and leaking in a number of rooms. "Here in this building, the size of the room dictates the size of the exhibit,' says Loebach. "And so we've got several areas that we could really expand and update. We're at a point now that we are taking some exhibits down and putting them in storage because the rooms leak so badly that we can't keep anything in them." Loebach says other matching grant funds are available for a new facility, along with some state tourism funds, and private and public foundations. The museum will reveal further details of the building plan at a membership meeting on April 4th.

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