Chattanooga history museum plan hits fund roadblock

Chattanooga history museum plan hits fund roadblock

August 2nd, 2011 by Cliff Hightower in News

Employees with Armstrong Relocation help move artifacts and memorabilia into the Chattanooga History Center's new location next to the Tennessee Aquarium off Market Street.

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.


The City Council will discuss the 2012 fiscal year capital budget at 2 p.m. today in the City's Council committee room during a called budget and finance committee meeting. The council votes on the second and final reading tonight.

Bob Doak

Bob Doak

Daryl Black

Daryl Black

Council member Sally Robinson

Council member Sally Robinson

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

The Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitor's Bureau won't pay a dime to construct a new history museum near the Tennessee Aquarium, the bureau's president and CEO said Monday.

"We don't fund attractions," said Bob Doak. "If we were to fund attractions, we would have every attraction in town coming to us."

The question of whether the bureau would pay for a new Chattanooga History Museum came up last week during a City Council Budget and Finance Committee as council members discussed the 2012 fiscal year capital budget.

The city has allocated $500,000 for a Chattanooga History Museum -- $250,000 this year and $250,000 next year. The museum will be managed by the Chattanooga History Center.

But some council members questioned whether the city should be paying money toward a building it doesn't own.

Councilwoman Sally Robinson said last week it's the city's role to pay for surrounding infrastructure and public improvements, not construction of private or nonprofit structures. She and Councilwoman Deborah Scott brought up the Convention and Visitors Bureau as a possible source for funds.

Robinson said Monday that city officials could use Doak's comments themselves to argue why the city should not spend money on the museum.

"I think the same could be said for the city," she said. "It does set a precedent."

Daryl Black, executive director for the Chattanooga History Center, has said the center so far has raised about $6 million for the $10 million project.

On Monday, he said he had talked to Doak, but couldn't disclose their discussion. He said the center has a "very strong relationship" with the bureau.

"I think there are a lot of ways to encourage relationships that connect all of us," he said.

The council plans to hold a called budget and finance committee meeting at 2 p.m. today to tie up any loose ends on the capital budget. The council will then have its second and final reading on the budget tonight during the regularly scheduled business meeting.

Richard Beeland, spokesman for Mayor Ron Littlefield, said Monday there is "no real timeline" on if or when the city could convince the bureau to chip in for building the history museum. The council could still pass the capital budget and vote down the expenditure for the museum at a later date, he said.

"Just because [the money] is sitting there doesn't mean you have to spend it," he said.

Doak said the only money the bureau would spend on the museum would be for marketing and promotion of the facility.

"That would open the door," he said.

Contact staff writer Cliff Hightower at or 423-757-6480. Follow him on Twitter at