Discovery Park of America taking major steps forward
Posted: Thursday, March 17, 2011 9:03 pm
By GLENDA CAUDLE
Special Features Editor
The earth is moving.
Discovery Park of America board of directors president Jim Rippy Wednesday afternoon informed chairmen of the multi-million dollar education-entertainment-tourism project’s volunteer committees that everything in the schematic design of the complex has been approved. Site work contracts on the 50-acre development in Union City’s northwest quadrant have all been bid, OKed and signed and workmen are simply waiting for dry weather to rev up the activity level that will be observable by cars streaming down Everett Boulevard between the Main Street and Mount Zion Road intersections.
Bids on Discovery Park Center — the futuristic multi-level glass-detailed building that will showcase the work of most of the planning committees — are due back to Allen Searcy Builder Contractor Inc. in Union City by April 15 and it is hoped that actual work on the structure will begin within that month and will be completed by August 2012.
Architects from Verner Johnson Museum Architects and Planners in Boston, the exhibit design team from Thinc Design™ in New York and the design fabricators from Maltbie in Mount Laurel, N.J., say it will take another six months to set up the exhibits and install the kitchen for the dining facilities that will be available in a unique setting on site.
Off-site, fabricators are busy molding the bones of dinosaurs that will eventually swoop from the heights over the heads of DPA visitors or appear to engage in ancient battles with each other as they tower over the park’s smallest visitors. Actual bones from some of these creatures have already been purchased and will be put in place alongside new acquisitions — some of which teams from the University of Tennessee at Martin are hoping to unearth soon in excavation efforts in Kansas. Most of these yesteryear combatants will be clearly visible from outside the building day and night, thanks to the glass walls that will also offer the ancient creatures a view of the modern world beyond their confines.
Tanks, planes, armored vehicles and rockets are being readied for display in unique venues, and older vestiges of war — armor from the Middle Ages, ironclads from the Civil War, uniforms, weapons and more — will have their place, as well.
Craftsmen at Maltbie are also constructing the multi-story hollow human figure that will be large enough for children and adults to enter and explore, with legs massive enough to permit sliding down — through an interior clear plastic tube — from one level of the building to another.
Committees continue to search out living specimens to fill the massive aquariums — complete with pop-up plastic bubbles to allow visitors to get “inside” the watery experience; and still other volunteers are searching through valuable works of art from the Tennessee State Museum and setting up a rotating schedule of “loans” from that facility.
The engineers and builders charged with making the earthquake simulator have promised an adventure unlike that available in any other venue and the starship designers say the wide-open-universe experience they can provide will be light years beyond the tours of the galaxy normally offered by museums.
A miniature model of the Indian hologram that will draw visitors into the world of ancient tribes who called northwest Tennessee home has already been displayed for DPA board members and the full scale model is being prepared.
More than a dozen antique cars — including a 1929 Model A roadster with a rumble seat, a 1948 Plymouth “Woody”, a 1941 Wilys coup dragster, a 1938 Cadillac Fleetwood owned by W.C. Fields and a 1929 Lincoln touring car — have already been purchased and are parked in gleaming readiness in storage, awaiting a more dramatic display at DPA.
Designers with an interest in alternative forms of energy will be putting the finishing touches on exhibits that allow visitors to create their own power and then put it to work in yet another of the many interactive sections of the building,
Meanwhile, beyond those soon-to-be-constructed imagination-stirring walls of Discovery Park Center, Yesteryear Village and the botanical garden will begin taking shape almost immediately. As soon as site preparation that is getting under way now is complete, some historic buildings already belonging to the Obion County Museum will be moving to the new location and contractors will begin construction on others that will be part of the opportunity for visitors to walk through a village from days gone by. Adventure-filled walkways, refreshing waterways, access roads, bridges, fences and lighting will be put in place, as well. And the efforts necessary to lay track and construct a platform will proceed while volunteer committees complete the purchase of the steam engine, sleeping car and other antique train cars that will make up that exhibit on the grounds.
The functioning grist mill purchased in East Tennessee several months ago will be set up, water will begin to splash over its massive wheel, gears will begin to mesh and corn grains will lose their shape between the grinding stones that move as a result of this engineering feat.
And over it all, the multi-story glass tower that is the signature of Discovery Park of America will rise and beckon visitors from near and far.
And if “the earth moves” according to plan, Discovery Park of America will be ready to welcome guests in the first quarter of 2013.
Glenda Caudle may be e-mailed at glendacaudle @ucmessenger.com.
Published in The Messenger 3.17.11
Discovery Park of America