GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The plan: Transform an old building into a showcase of the state's aviation history.
Supporters of the Mississippi Aviation Heritage Museum believe they've found the ideal location: an old furniture store building. Those advocating for the museum say the old "Rooms to Go" building on Pass Road in Gulfport is a perfect fit for their plans.
Not only is the building adjacent to the airport, the spacious interior seems ready-made for exhibits.
"The space is fantastic. It's got almost 40-[foot] high ceilings, so we can hang airplanes....Frank Genzer, the architect, has donated his time to design the museum," said Francisco Gonzalez, who chairs the committee behind the museum plans.
According to Gonzalez, the city has already agreed to lease the building. A target of vandalism, the building will need to be cleaned before the roof and air conditioning can be repaired.
"We've needed something like this down on the Coast forever, and it was very difficult to get started," said retired military pilot, Dick Wilson, who serves on the museum leadership committee. "But, we've had some crusaders that never gave up."
Volunteer Jim Carter sees the hidden potential in the vacant showroom.
"Biggest thing right now is we need to get money and get the volunteers in here and get after it. This is a beautiful facility," said Carter.
Former state representative Frances Fredericks was an early supporter of the project, and remains convinced of the merit in creating a place to honor Mississippi aviation history and heroes.
Supporters say it will take $200,000 to repair the roof and air conditioning before they can move forward with the rest of the plans.
"We have to get the community behind us. This is a grass roots [effort], so I'm inviting the community to partake in this endeavor. I'm inviting them to donate their time and efforts," said Gonzalez.