DODGE CITY, Kan. (KSNW) – The tourism industry creates thousands of jobs and brings in billions of dollars to the state. After a year of slowdown, a major Dodge City attraction is gearing up for the tourism season ahead.
It’s been years in the making, but on Thursday the new Boot Hill Museum announced its May 8 official grand opening date.
“This building has been a vision for many many years. We’ve always talked about an expansion of the museum,” said Lara Brehm, Boot Hill Museum Executive Director. “We’re extremely proud of what we have.”
The $6 million renovation and expansion is the city’s centerpiece STAR Bond project. The 13,000 square foot attraction features a dozen permanent exhibits, a gallery, gift shop, and grand entrance.
Governor Kelly joined board members to dedicate the new building Thursday.
“Individual communities know that a lot of their bread and butter is based on tourism and I think Dodge is one of those,” said Gov. Laura Kelly, (D) Kansas.
Governor Kelly went on to say that the renovation is a vital piece in growing Kansas’ tourism industry. “We fully expect that as this comes online, people find out about it, you’re gonna have international travelers coming here just to see this,” she said.
The attraction is an economic driver for the city bringing in an average of 75,000 visitors each year and employing nearly 120 people during the height of tourism season.
Museum officials hope the expansion will help double its current visitor numbers within the next five years to 150,000 people. “Boot Hill has a long-standing tradition. Many of the people that have grown up in Dodge City started their careers right here at Boot Hill Museum,” said Kerri Baker, Chairman, Boot Hill Museum of Directors.
According to Dodge City’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, in 2019, the tourist hotspot ranked 8th in Kansas for most dollars spent, raking in nearly $135 million for the county.
But for many it’s more than money, it’s about keeping the city’s history alive. “Boot Hill Museum is the heart of Dodge City. We are saving our stories for generations to come and it’s just thrilling to be apart of that,” said Baker.
“Our stories are the same, the history is the same, but how we present it to our visitors and the youth needs to change a little bit and make us relevant for the future,” said Brehm.
Numbers for the 2020 tourism season and how the area was impacted by the pandemic are still being evaluated.
The official grand opening celebration will take place on Saturday, May 8. For more information on the Boot Hill Museum, click here.