The National Cold War Center has received $1.9 million in state funds to advance plans to build a museum at the decommissioned Eaker Air Force Base in Blytheville.
The allocation, approved by the state Legislature, comes in the form of a one-time distribution of restricted reserve funds to the state Department of Parks, Heritage & Tourism.
Mary Gay Shipley, chair of the National Cold War Center board of directors, said the contribution will allow the center to "move full-speed ahead towards becoming one of the world’s premiere cultural institutions from right here in the Arkansas Delta."
The cost of the project, not including exhibits, has been estimated at $13 million. Interactive exhibits, two aircraft and a refurbished alert facility are part of the overall plan. A fundraising campaign with a target of $20 million launched a few years ago as part of the first phase of development.
The first major on-site exhibit, which explores the base's history and its impact on the Blytheville community, opened in 2020.
The base, originally known as the Blytheville Army Airfield, opened in 1942 as a training facility for World War II pilots. In 1958, the base was converted to a Strategic Air Command alert mission.
It remained a key U.S. military command through events such as the Cuban Missile Crisis and the signing of the treaties that officially ended the Cold War in the early 1990s.
The National Cold War Center is projected to see a minimum of 50,000 visitors each year by its third year in operation, according to a feasibility study funded by an Arkansas Parks & Tourism grant.