Chanute Air Museum closing for good

- Update: 10:01 pm
RANTOUL -- After decades of preserving the area's military history, the Chanute Air Museum is closing.

"When we looked at all the numbers and we sat down and reality hit, we said we just can't keep going," said Nancy Kobel, president of the museum's board.

The museum is losing longtime support from the Village of Rantoul. Board members say, because of that, unless a miracle happens, the museum will close at the end of December. Chanute Air Force Base used to be the force of Rantoul, but when it closed, it took a lot of the city with it.

"The Chanute Air Base was a key technical training center for the Air Force. A lot of important things happened there. The Tuskegee Airmen's maintenance people trained there. It all started there," says Kobel.

The museum picked up Chanute's history where the military left it. For 20+ years, donations, volunteers and the city helped preserve that history, not to mention people like Kobel who helped save it from closing five years ago.

"2013, we reached a point where we were not in a negative situation financially. We were able to pay our bills. We weren't in debt and hopeful for the future," says Kobel.

That is until the Village of Rantoul said earlier this year it could no longer pay the museum's utilities or give it a break on rent because it just didn't have the money.

"We looked at being able to come up with enough money to pay that fair market value in rent and cover our utilities, which would come out to around 64 - 65 thousand dollars a month," says Kobel.

Board members say there just aren't enough people visiting these exhibits to make up for any extra costs. After weighing all the options, they decided to close.

"There is that sense of relief that we now have a focus, but the task is not easy. It is sad, it is. It is a part of history and it won't be here. It will be someplace else," says Kobel.

Kobel says the important part is making sure Chanute's history is preserved no matter where it is.

"People take this opportunity in the upcoming months to visit us and see what has been here it is a part of history and hopefully go out with the grace and dignity it started with," says Kobel.

10,000 - 15,000 people visit the museum each year. It costs around $10,000 per month to operate the non-profit. Kobel says the museum wont be cancelling any planned events for the year and the summer camp will go on. They say the move will be expensive and the museum will stay open until December 30 to get as much as they can.

The Chanute Air Force Base opened in 1917 and closed in 1993 due to defense cuts. The museum opened a year later in 1994. Over 1.5 million troops trained at the base in its 75 years of operation. A peak of more than 11,000 was reached in 1953 during the Korean War.

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Original: 6:47 pm
RANTOUL -- The town is losing a connection to its past. The Chanute Air Museum will close at the end of the year. It's been a fixture on the old base since the Air Force pulled out in 1994.

Residents are upset it's come to this, but board members say the village was keeping them afloat. The village can't afford to anymore and there's just not enough money coming in to keep the museum open.

It cost about $10,000 a month to maintain the facility. About half of that is rent the museum paid to the village. It's actually a discounted price. If the museum was to stay open, it would cost an extra $64,000 each month which is the amount of the costs the village has been absorbing all this time.

The Air Museum has two planes on loan from the U.S. Navy and 32 artifacts, including 28 planes form the Air Force. Other artifacts include a Minuteman missile which stands next to the entrance and a Hound Dog missile. There are plenty of other things in storage visitors haven't seen.

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