Historic Pima County courthouse could become new visitor center - Tucson News Now

Historic Pima County courthouse could become new visitor center

Old Pima County courthouse (Source: Tucson News Now) Old Pima County courthouse (Source: Tucson News Now)
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Pima County may move forward with a plan to re-purpose the old county courthouse downtown as a regional visitors center.

The historic courthouse has been vacant since summer 2016, when the last of the county offices moved into the new county services center at Stone and Toole.

The county had planned to build a $20 million visitors center last year, but the funding dried up when the bond issue was voted down.

"The timing is right," said Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry.

The courthouse is in central downtown, which could be a catalyst for tourism, a $2.6 billion industry in Tucson which employs 22,000 people.

The visitors center could enhance that.

"Where we can attract visitors with simply one-stop shopping and where they can go to one place and find out about all the attractions in Southern Arizona," Huckelberry said.
 
It will include the University of Arizona's mineral museum, the John Dillinger courtroom and an 11,000-square-foot visitors area, which will be interactive and the January 8th memorial.

Visit Tucson will also be relocated in the courthouse as part of the renovation.

The visitors center will be managed by the Western National Parks Association, which manages 71 parks concessions in the western United States.

The center will be designed with the younger generations in mind, especially millennials and Generation X'ers. 

Studies show both groups have become more affluent as the economy has improved and are willing to travel more.

One destination high on their list is Tucson.

Recent surveys show 33 percent of millennials choose Tucson compared to 29 percent of Gen X'ers.

There will be an interactive visitors center, amphitheater, museums and even studios for film events.

The final decision will be up to the board of supervisors, but also whether lease agreements can be negotiated and signed.

The first of those should appear before the board Oct. 18.

"It's a great opportunity to preserve a historic structure," Huckelberry said. "And a great opportunity to create economic activity for the tourism industry."

If all goes well, he believes the visitors center could be operational in 18 months. 

Copyright 2016 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.

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