Denver Ski History Center -- Will It Happen?

Denver Ski History

In April 2012 Skiing Heritage reported on a plan to open an International Center for Snowsport History and Art. Bernie Weichsel, then chairman of the U.S. National Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame, and a director of ISHA, identified the third floor of Denver’s historic McNichols Building (originally a Carnegie Library) as a venue for the Center, which would become (among other things) the home of the Beekley International Collection of Skiing Art and Literature.

Weichsel had an informal agreement with the City of Denver to make that space available at reasonable cost. He announced the intention to raise $2 million for renovations and ongoing operations, including staffing, rent and utilities.

Weichsel hoped to raise $200,000 a year for ten years, but over last summer the City of Denver changed its mind, and in November the building reopened as the McNichols Civic Center Building, with an efficient modern loft-like interior designed to host art exhibits and public functions. The ski history project lost all traction.

“The glass is still half full,” Weichsel said recently. “We still have verbal support from funding sources, but we don’t have a home. VisitDenver, the tourism promoter, wants it to happen, and the Beekley Foundation is supportive. We need 10,000 square feet of permanent space for the Collection. There are a lot of new developments in downtown Denver, so I’m hopeful we’ll find an organization that wants to work with us.”

Susie Tjossem, director of the Colorado Ski Museum, told ISHA President John Fry that CSM  supports the Denver museum, but that she’s skeptical about whether it can be funded.

Meanwhile, the Beekley Collection remains in storage, in a secure, climate-controlled Denver warehouse. “We have given Bernie a July 1 cutoff date,” said Beekley Foundation trustee Natale Messina.  “If he does not have an alternative within that timeframe we will immediately explore other options.”

David Scott, a board member of CSM, has been helping Weichsel in the search for space. “We have interest from a museum in Denver but it doesn’t make sense to talk about details until we’re close to a deal. It raises possibly false expectations,” he said. “We won’t look for funding until we have a location assured. Meanwhile, if the Beekley Foundation finds a place first, we’ll be happy to see the collection in its new home.”

The Center isn’t the only specialized exhibit looking for a cheap permanent home in Denver. The old Union Station, now under renovation to become part of a huge new transportation hub, has kicked out a couple of model railroad clubs that had been running their layouts in the basement for decades. At least one of those displays will now be installed, temporarily, at the History Colorado Center, a $33 million, 40,000-square-foot building that opened in April, 2012. History Colorado, located a ten-minute walk south of the McNichols building, has its own Colorado skiing history exhibit.

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