NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) — Organizers of the first major national museum honoring the U.S. Coast Guard said Friday they're optimistic the long-awaited attraction will finally be built in New London.
John Johnson was among the project's first proponents 15 years ago and currently serves as the museum association's treasurer. He said plans are now in the works for an April groundbreaking and a 2017 grand opening for the 50,000- to 60,000-square-foot facility, which is expected to attract 1.4 million visitors annually.
"There's a lot that has to happen to make that a reality," said Johnson, appearing at a news conference at Fort Trumbull Pier where the U.S. Coast Guard Barque Eagle was moored. The Coast Guard Academy is in New London.
Raising money remains the biggest challenge. The museum is expected to ultimately cost about $50 million to $60 million.
On Friday, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney announced he has bipartisan support for federal legislation that would require the U.S. Mint to create a commemorative coin that honors the Coast Guard and its history.
Every year the U.S. Mint strikes two coins. Proceeds from such coins average about $2 million to $3 million, but Courtney expects the Coast Guard coin will be popular and aggressively marketed, generating more money.
The state of Connecticut has already pledged $20 million toward the museum and the museum association has hired a Virginia-based marketing and fundraising firm to help raise private funds. Since April, more than $150,000 in donations has been raised, Johnson said.