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Arkansas Business: National Cold War Center Gets $500K Grant From Scenic Byways Program

The National Cold War Center in Blytheville announced it has received a $500,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration’s National Scenic Byways program, in conjunction with the Arkansas Department of Transportation.

The grant will support the rehabilitation of several key historic structures at the museum, which will be located at the former Blytheville/Eaker Air Force Base on Arkansas Great River Road, a Scenic Byway.

It's the latest in a series of government grants supporting the project. The state Division of Arkansas Heritage Cultural Institutions Trust Fund awarded the museum $400,000 in March. In September, the museum received $1.9 million in state funds, a one-time allocation approved by the Legislature.

The latest round of funding is an "investment in the preservation of the history and scenic beauty of our region," Mary Gay Shipley, chair of the museum's board directors, said in a news release. “This grant will make critical improvements possible, contributing to our goal to make NCWC a must-visit destination for Arkansas.”

Blytheville Air Force Base, originally known as the Blytheville Army Airfield, opened in 1942 as a training facility for World War II pilots. In 1958, the base was converted to a Strategic Air Command alert mission and remained a key U.S. military command for three decades, through events such as the Cuban Missile Crisis and the signing of the treaties that officially ended the Cold War in the early 1990s.

A fundraising campaign with a target of $20 million launched a few years ago as part of the first phase of museum development. Interactive exhibits, two aircraft and a refurbished alert facility are part of the overall plan. 

The first major on-site exhibit, which explores the base's history and its impact on the Blytheville community, opened in 2020.

Nucor Steel Arkansas and Nucor-Yamato Steel Co. in November each donated $500,000 to the project. 

In February, Arkansas' six congressional delegates introduced legislation to formally recognize the former military base as the National Cold War Center. 

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