Grand opening set for Sun Cities museum expansion

Members get 1st peek Nov. 1


Del Webb Sun Cities Museum members and the public will get their first look at the museum expansion during the first weekend in November.

The three-day event will showcase the 700-square-foot addition. Museum members will get an early sneak peek 3-6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1 at the museum, 10801 W. Oakmont Drive. That will be followed by two public sessions — 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2 and noon-4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 3.

“We’re excited to finally show this to the public,” said Don Tuffs, museum board of trustees president. “This will give us a chance to feature more Sun Cities history.”

The museum’s board announced the plans in mid-November 2018, but have been planning the project for several years. The empitus of getting the project started was a successful grant application, Mr. Tuffs.

“This has been a long time in coming,” Mr. Tuffs said.

The expansion, which involved construction of a new building behind the current museum, was made possible by an $80,000 grant from the Del E. Webb Foundation. The expansion added to the existing 1,675-square-foot main building. The expansion was necessary to allow more space for exhibits, according to Mr. Tuffs. He said museum officials planned the largest possible building they could get on the property.

“We sure could have used another five feet, but we built right up to the allowed 25-foot setback from the golf course,” said Paul Herrmann, museum board vice president.

The new building, which replaces the back porch, will be connected to the existing building with access from a door at the connection point and two other entries, on on the west side and another on the south side.

“We are having to rotate exhibits now because we don’t have enough space for it all,” Mr. Tuffs explained. “And we are looking at ideas to create new ones.”

Mr. Herrmann said museum officials have about twice as many exhibits as will fit into the existing space. Rotating the exhibits does cause some problems with visitors.

“We had to take down the baseball exhibit to put up the new symphony exhibit,” he said. “Right after that, we had a couple come in who were disappointed because they had come specifically to see the baseball exhibit.”

Some plans are already being considered for additional exi=hibits in the new space, but nothing was in place yet. In addition to additional exhibit space, the expansion has room for a store display, a 70-inch TV for showing videos, a storage area, restroom and counter space.

Construction was projected to cost $115,000, a little more than the grant funds available. Therefore, museum trustees conducted, and continue to so so, a fundraising campaign throughout the year.

The fundraising campaign is expected to fund some interior design, new exhibits, supplies and physical upgrades to the existing building.

“The museum plays an important role in promoting the history of the Sun Cities, and we’re confident our communities will step up to generously support our efforts,” said Gail Warmath, Sun Cities Area Historical Society board president at the time of the announced expansion plans.

Mr. Herrmann added the museum plays a large role in educating people that Sun City and Sun City West were the country’s first active retirement communities.

“Sun City was first and Sun City West was second,” he said. “These communities revolutionized retirement.”

The existing museum was one of five model homes originally built in Sun City and unveiled when the community opened Jan. 1, 1960. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. During the summer, it was painted pink, the original color of the home when it was purchased as a residence.

The Sun Cities Area Historical Society was organized in 1986 as part of the 25th anniversary of Sun City. Its mission is to preserve, protect and promote the history of Sun City and Sun City West.

The organization purchased the building in 1990. The home, now the Del Webb Sun Cities Museum and Research Center, was restored to its original condition and features exhibits and artifacts showcasing the history of the Sun Cities.

The nonprofit SCAHS organization is directed by a volunteer board of trustees and operated by volunteer docents and guides. Operating funds are derived primarily by membership dues, donations and fundraising activities.

Visit Call 623-974-2568 to contribute to the museum or to learn more about becoming a museum sponsor.

Based in Prescott, the Del E. Webb Foundation honors the memory of Del E. Webb, the creator and developer of the Sun Cities. The nonprofit organization supports “results-based programs” that impact society and focuses primarily on child and health initiatives.