Scottsdale City Council unanimously approved on Sept. 19 expanding Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West.
The museum, a Smithsonian Affiliate since its opening in January 2015 at 3830 N. Marshall Way, Scottsdale, has had a decade-long museum management agreement with the city of Scottsdale, according to Assistant City Manager Brent Stockwell, who presented the item to the council.
“Expansion has been in discussion for more than five years,” Stockwell said about the proposed 11,360-square-foot development that would add two new galleries to the Old Town Scottsdale museum. “The museum has been looking for a donor to privately fund the expansion and found that with the generosity of Mr. Sands.”
Louis “Buzz” Sands IV, owner of several car dealerships across the Valley, privately donated $12 million to Western Spirit — a donation that would change Scottsdale’s longstanding museum management agreement with the institution.
The additional terms, as explained by Stockwell, would include capping the city’s fees at their current level (no more than $650,000), no increases to the management service fees, and safeguarding the city and taxpayers from additional costs over time, a point emphasized by Councilmember Tom Durham.
“While this is a great addition to Scottsdale, (the council has) also been very careful in the legal agreements to make sure that we are protecting the citizens and taxpayers of Scottsdale from any losses in connection with the museum,” Durham said. “We’re getting a great asset, but we’re also protecting our citizens and taxpayers from any issues or problems that might arise. It’s a great deal all around.”
However, an additional $40,000 in city maintenance costs are to be expected to cover the new expansion, according to the City Council report presented by Stockwell. Councilmember Barry Graham brought forth further budgetary concerns put upon the city and taxpayers for Western Spirit’s new development.
“In the event there are cost overruns for the expansion, construction,” Graham asked, “how does that work, contingency wise?”
“Those are paid by the museum,” Stockwell said. “It’s not paid by the city at all. That’s the way the agreement is written. … The city would still have to follow all the terms of the museum management agreement after there’s the expansion.”
According to the new museum management agreement , construction of the facility will be completed within two years of the project’s groundbreaking.
“We want to thank all the people that were involved,” Councilmember Betty Janik said. “A tremendous amount of work on the part of (the) staff and the people of the museum. The vision that (former Chairman of Western Spirit) Jim Bruner had when he had the dream to build the Museum of the West. It’s a wonderful institution. I encourage all of you to visit it and bring your family and friends to visit it as well. And a big thanks to Buzz Sands for his generous, very generous, $12 million donation.”
Because of Sands' donation, the two new galleries will be dubbed the Louis Sands IV Center, according to Stockwell.
Western Spirit boasts exhibits dedicated to artists' interpretations of the American West, such as Andy Warhol’s final collection before his death, Cowboys and Indians, which is on display until Nov. 26.
Another exhibit focuses on the women of the West curated by 25 female artists with almost 200 pieces to view, which the museum promises to further expand in 2024.
Carly Poirier is an Arizona State University journalism student. We would like to invite our readers to submit their civil comments, pro or con, on this issue. Email AZOpinions@iniusa.org.