A few words were changed Monday in a grant agreement between the visitor’s bureau and Rail Town, words that organizers say will help build a major attraction along I-80.Rail Town organizer Dave Harrold and Lisa Burke of the city and county visitor’s bureau asked the county commissioners to approve a change that clearly extends a $500,000 grant for five years, instead of the customary 18 months. The grant was awarded in 2012 and was intended for five years, according to the announcement then. The wording change makes it official, Harrold said.
The commissioners approved the change.
The grant is a matching amount and won’t be awarded unless $1 million is raised from other sources, Harrold said. He has been talking to potential investors in Colorado.
The goal is to build a Rail Town attraction along the south side of Interstate-80, between the two North Platte interchanges.
The attraction would be built out of shipping containers – rectangular steel crates that are used to carry merchandise and supplies around the world. The jumbo Lego-like containers are being converted to building, with astonishing results. Architects have adapted them for high-rise apartment blocks in Melbourne, designer penthouse additions in Manhattan and coffee shops in Vancouver.
In Britain, Travelodge used steel containers in two different sizes to create 120 rooms and a bar/cafe in a hotel. The containers were prepared ahead of time in China with plasterboard walls, wiring and plumbing, then were simply bolted together on site. All that was left to install were windows, decoration and furnishings, the Travelodge company said.
According to preliminary designs, a Rail Town container structure would not be a hotel, but would be home to many things, including railroad museum items.
It would be 200-feet long (the length of about 50 containers) and about 50 feet wide. At that scale, it could also become a national center for container art and container architecture, in addition to a Rail Town attraction, Harrold said.
Harrold said it is time for North Platte to focus on it's railroad heritage and build an attraction where it will be seen by I-80 travelers, who would then stop in North Platte.
As many as 2.4 million travelers pass by North Platte in a year, according to a 2012 feasibility study.
The North Platte and Lincoln County Visitor’s Bureau is also interested in moving to the site. Plenty of information would be provided to encourage visitors to stay and see what North Platte has to offer, including Buffalo Bill’s Scouts Rest Ranch, the Golden Spike, Cody Park, the Wild West Arena and the Lincoln County Museum. Each site has connections to the railroad, under the feasibility study. A 19th century rail coach, observation car and caboose is envisioned on the Buffalo Bill Cody grounds. An elevated operating scale model train is envisioned downtown.
Harrold said the success of Rail Fest has proven that people will come from around the world to see the world’s biggest train yard and the surrounding area, including such things as photographic viewpoints on pedestrian overpasses in Sutherland and Brady.
In other business Monday, the commissioners considered a new building to hold equipment for the Lincoln County dive and rescue team. Currently the county rents a storage building.
Sites under consideration for the building are the grounds of the noxious weed control headquarters and/or the county roads department.