VACAVILLE — This is the turning point year for the Jimmy Doolittle Museum and Center for Patriotism.
The nonprofit organization is in the midst of raising at least $1.5 million by the end of this year to buy a 10.5-acre parcel, located behind the Nut Tree retail center, to build its facility dedicated to teaching visitors about aviation history and inspiring them with the legacy of this country’s patriotism.
It is also in talks with the city of Vacaville about another 11.5-acre parcel that would give the center about 22 acres to build on. The leaders are also seeking interested hotel owners who would be interested in putting a full-service hotel on land adjacent to the center.
Talks are also going forward with Solano Community College to establish the college’s aviation maintenance program in a building next to the center’s two exhibition buildings.
The trick will be generating enough money for that first land transaction, through which supporters hope to show donors waiting in the wings that the center’s supporters have the ability to make the center a reality.
Once the Doolittle center is able to “get the land to put a stick in the ground,” it will be able to entice more supporters to commit money, center supporter Len Augustine said.
“We are going to make this happen,” said a determined Herm Rowland, one of the center’s co-chairmen, at a Thursday presentation of concept drawings.
The latest conceptual design, which had no price attached to it, is more ambitious than the previous ones and was described as becoming a major attraction for this area if it is completed.
It comprises two large exhibit halls that could be reconfigured for conferences, one of which will include a 170-seat theater. On the east side is land for a two-story hotel while on the west side a facility is planned for Solano College’s aviation program if talks with the college district bear fruit.
Linking these buildings will be an enclosed walkway with exhibits on leadership and patriotism.
On the west side of the proposed Solano College facility will be a hands-on aviation educational facility designed specifically for children.
“This is a huge step for us,” Rowland said of the proposed center. “This is just the skin. There is still a lot of work ahead for us.”
Brian McInerney stressed that the plans are a living work in progress and will proceed as the support and financing come together.
Building the center will be a huge boon for the adjacent airport and the Nut Tree retail center, supporters said. It will bring more visiting aircraft to the Nut Tree, because of the links the center will have to the airport, and more customers to the stores, because of the increased traffic from motorists.
The latest step in the campaign to raise money for the museum involves the recent arrival of a B-25 Mitchell bomber named Tondelayo from the Maryland-based Collings Foundation. It is now parked in the Copart hanger at the Nut Tree Airport.
The B-25′s first appearance is expected to be a fly-over Sunday at the Sonoma Raceway, McInerney said.
Sixteen B-25 bombers were used in the April 1942 raid on Tokyo by then-Col. Jimmy Doolittle. The aircraft took off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet to strike targets in Japan as an effort to raise morale in the United States in the aftermath of the Japanese naval blitzkrieg that engulfed much of the Western Pacific, including the Philippines, Malaya and the Dutch East Indies.
Museum supporters hope appearances by the World War II-era, twin-engine bomber at events in the region will create more public recognition for the museum and will generate donations.
The museum is offering seats on the bomber for group or private flights over the Bay Area, with flight packages between $5,000 and $10,000. That included flights over the America’s Cup races on the San Francisco Bay.
There are also talks with groups such as the Experimental Aircraft Association to bring in other historic aircraft that people can see, to bolster the center’s living history aspect. Also in the works are plans to host a speaker series in the hangar that Copart has already handed over to the center.
“We want to get some activities and more awareness out there,” McInerney said.
The museum’s next fundraiser, the third annual Stars & Stripes Gala, is scheduled from 6 to 9:30 p.m. Sept. 20 at the home of Jay Adair, with NorthBay Healthcare as a presenting sponsor. For more information on the benefit, call 317-1134.
This is the latest move in a 20-year campaign that started with the decision to find a new home for the Travis Air Museum that would give more access to off-base visitors. After plans to build a museum next to the base’s hospital gate fell through, supporters of the Doolittle center decided to move their efforts to the site next to the Nut Tree Airport.
For more information about the Doolittle Museum and Center for Patriotism, go to https://doolittlemuseum.org or call 317-1138.
Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.