June 10, 2024

Palm Springs Air Museum Expansion Breaks Ground: A New Era of Aviation Education and Preservation

By Bob Marra

The Palm Springs Air Museum (PSAM) has embarked on a significant expansion project that promises to elevate it from a beloved local attraction to a premier aviation destination. The $3 million renovation, designed by national architecture firm HED in collaboration with Cioffi Architect, includes a new 9,200-square-foot addition and a host of functional and aesthetic upgrades.

A Visionary Design

The expansion features two new building additions: a multi-purpose room and a gift shop with corporate offices. These enhancements aim to improve visitor flow and provide modern amenities. The new facade, inspired by the blades of a turbine engine and Palm Springs’ iconic Mid-Century Modern architecture, not only adds an aesthetic upgrade but also serves to protect the museum’s historical archives.

“We are thrilled to see this project come to life,” said Fred Bell, Vice Chairman at the Palm Springs Air Museum. “Our collaboration with HED and Cioffi Architect has resulted in a design that respects the museum’s historical significance while enhancing our educational facilities and providing modern amenities for future generations to enjoy.”

Enhanced Visitor Experience

The renovation also includes enlarged areas for queuing and ticketing, ensuring a more comfortable experience for the museum’s more than 150,000 annual visitors. The new layout will guide visitors more smoothly through the museum, enhancing their overall experience.

“This is really going to change that dramatically,” said Dan Ringler, Sector Leader at HED. “You’re going to know where the front door is. You’re going to feel like you’ve arrived at a place that is special and unique to Palm Springs.”

Ronald M. Auen Learning Center

A cornerstone of the expansion is the Ronald M. Auen Learning Center, which will host a variety of educational programs, particularly in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). The center is named in honor of Ronald Auen, a longtime supporter of the museum and the armed forces. The learning center aims to engage young people and inspire the next generation of aviators and aviation enthusiasts.

“Ron was a champion for many great causes, but the Palm Springs Air Museum held a special place in his heart,” said Sherrie Auen, widow of Ronald Auen and trustee of the Auen Foundation. “He thought it was important for children to understand the price of freedom, and he valued the educational mission of the museum for people of all ages.”

Preserving History

The Palm Springs Air Museum is home to over 75 vintage airframes from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and Operation Desert Storm, including the notable F-117 Stealth Fighter. These aircraft are displayed across 91,000 square feet of open hangars and on the tarmac, with additional exhibits and memorabilia located throughout the facility.

“The expansion of the Palm Springs Air Museum is a testament to our commitment to creating spaces that are functional, compelling, and create a positive impact for the client and surrounding community,” said Dan Ringler. “We are honored to contribute to a project that preserves such an important part of our history and enhances the educational experience for all visitors.”

Community Support and Future Plans

The groundbreaking ceremony saw support from major donors, local dignitaries, and aviation enthusiasts. Notable attendees included Lydia Van Vogt, translator to General Dwight D. Eisenhower during World War II, and Palm Springs Mayor Jeffrey Bernstein.

Private donors have contributed $2.5 million to the project, with the museum still seeking an additional $500,000 to cover contingencies. The renovation is expected to be completed by February 2025, with the Ronald M. Auen Learning Center set to open in fall 2025.

As the Palm Springs Air Museum continues to grow and evolve, this expansion marks a pivotal moment in its history, ensuring that it remains a vital educational and cultural resource for years to come.

Related Articles


Share This

Share this post with your friends!