The city of Marion has received a $1 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to help construct the new Sultana Disaster Museum.
The project will be matched with $250,000 in local funds. It's expected to create 90 jobs and generate $200,000 in private investment.
Funds come from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which all of Arkansas' congressional delegates voted against.
The museum tells the story of the Sultana, a commercial steamboat that exploded and sunk in the Mississippi River in 1865. The disaster killed at least 1,500 people, making it the worst maritime disaster in U.S. history.
The nonprofit Sultana Historic Preservation Society acquired a 17,000-SF former school auditorium in Marion as the future home of the museum. The architecture firm Haizlip Studio of Memphis is leading efforts to redevelop the space into a modern, high-tech museum with state-of-the art concepts. In addition to an exhibit hall, plans call for an auditorium, theater, classroom and events space.
Recent funding has come from Hartford Steam Boiler CEO Greg Barats, who pledged $1 million; FedEx, which announced a $1 million challenge grant; and the Arkansas Attorney General's Office, which said in April that it would allocate $250,000 for the project.
The museum is expected to attract about 50,000 visitors per year and bring $3.5 million annually to Crittenden County.