Who paid for the World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial, anyway?


Government sources provided most of the money to restore and expand the Liberty Memorial.
  • Government sources provided most of the money to restore and expand the Liberty Memorial.

A history of the Liberty Memorial Association says the organization "raised" $102 million for the restoration and expansion of the monument that recognizes the sacrifices of World War I veterans. But given the level of public support, "received" might be a more appropriate verb.

Researching this week's feature story, I identified more than $87 million in funding from the city, the state and the U.S. government. The most substantial burden fell on taxpayers in Kansas City, Missouri.

Here is a breakdown, by funding source.

City of Kansas City, Missouri

In 1998, four years after the Liberty Memorial closed because of safety concerns, voters approved a temporary sales tax to pay for the monument's restoration and the establishment of an endowment to cover future repairs. The tax expired in 2000, having raised $45.5 million.

Officials at the parks department began planning in the mid-1990s for the construction of a museum below the deck. But the Liberty Memorial Association, which owns the World War I artifacts and memorabilia, was unable to raise the money for the new museum. So in 2004, voters were asked to approve a $20 bond issue to pay for most of the costs associated with the project. The measure passed. At present, the city owes $18.4 million.

State of Missouri

The money the Liberty Memorial has received from the state has come primarily from gamblers. State lawmakers appropriated $5 million from a casino-derived veterans fund in 1998. Three years later, when the plans for the museum were being finalized, the fund provided an additional $10 million.

The memorial has also received assistance from the Missouri Development Finance Board, which raises money by selling state tax credits. City ordinances indicate that the finance board contributed more than $1 million to the Liberty Memorial Project Fund.

U.S. Government

Those dreaded congressional earmarks furnished $6 million for the renovation of the monument and the construction of the museum from 1999 to 2006.

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