Updated 4 p.m.
An unexpected surge in business tax collections may go to build a new Tennessee State Museum —in its first ever dedicated home. Governor Bill Haslam proposed using $120 million to get started on a building that’s been mired in the planning stage for years.
As recently as earlier this month, state lawmakers asked why it’s taken so long to move forward with a new museum. The state’s repository for artifacts has been around since 1937, moving from the War Memorial building to the basement of the Tennessee Performing Art Center for the last three decades.
"We were surprised," says longtime executive director Lois Riggins-Ezzell. "The timing is just right."
“I believe it’s going to happen. I think sometimes the momentum is so right that you get the groundswell of the public," Riggins-Ezzell says.
The project is hardly shovel-ready, though. Detailed plans have not been completed, and groundbreaking could still be years away.
The $120 million recommended by Haslam still needs legislative approval, and it won’t cover the full cost. The museum foundation will have to raise $40 million in private donations.
Just across the park from the site, Nashville is completing First Tennessee Park, a new baseball stadium for the Sounds minor league team.
“I get excited thinking about the museum tying in with First Tennessee Park, a Metro greenway and the Nashville Farmers' Market,” Mayor Karl Dean said in a statement. “The combination of baseball, history, the farmers' market and the greenway will create a great new link between downtown and North Nashville."