By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
It’s been a longer race than Jeremy Blowers expected, but it’s coming to a close.
You can hear the relief in the voice of the executive director of the Ontario Regiment Museum as he speaks on the soon-to-be-completed Military Vehicle Conservation Centre.
“Work is still being done as we speak. It will wrap up next week,” Blowers says.
The centre’s grand opening is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 25, and couldn’t come any sooner.
“There have been many bumps in the road. We are actually far behind schedule,” Blowers admits.
The centre was supposed to be open by May, but Mother Nature had other plans.
“We had a difficult winter. We had a lot of weather that makes construction very difficult,” Blowers states.
The sod-turning ceremony for the 17,000 sq. ft. facility took place last October.
“Everything else for a project of this size and complexity actually went through very quickly. It really just came down to horrible construction conditions.”
Once completed the centre will be home to about 65 of the museum’s 90 military vehicles.
“The purpose is to protect the military assets of the museum. It is, in reality, a giant tank shed to keep them out of the elements – sun, rain, and snow,” Blowers says.
The majority of the museum’s vehicles, representing millions of dollars and years of history, are literally “weathering” it, he says.
The modern building will also create much-needed space around the museum.
“We can spread our wings in many different directions,” Blowers says.
The extra room will allow for high-profile restoration projects and increased museum programming.
In November, the museum will host a production of Billy Bishop Goes to War in the new building.
“Leading up to the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War it will be a production among the tanks. It’s the first time we are able to do this type of programming,” he says.
The Aug. 25 event is focused on celebrating those who helped make it all a reality.
“It’s a really special event for the community. We had many corporate donors and private donors,” he says. “We want to recognize them and show them what they’ve helped to achieve.”
Blowers says this is an accomplishment for not only the museum and the City of Oshawa, but the province and country.
“It’s a story that’s really been supported and watched by the entire network of military museums across the country. It’s been covered in international publications, and we’ve received encouragement from other tank museums like the French Tank Museum and the Bovington Tank Museum in England.”