The council is to prepare a business plan which could see the major refurbishment of Carrick’s US Rangers Centre.
At a meeting of the council’s Economic Growth, Regeneration and Tourism Committee last Monday night, councillors were told that the current facility is “dated and has limited visitor appeal.”
The museum tells the story of the US Rangers, an elite ‘Commando style’ fighting force formed in Carrickfergus in June 1942.
It remains the only US military unit ever founded on foreign soil. The local museum was founded in 1994, and has not been upgraded since.
A council report revealed that visitor numbers “remain low at around 2000 visitors per annum” and the current facility cannot accommodate school groups.
Now, to mark the 75th anniversary of the Rangers’ formation in 2017, three options have been put forward.
Option one, costing £19,780, would see a minor refurbishment. Option two, costing £30,000, would involve “substantive refurbishment without audio-visual elements”, while option three would entail “substantive refurbishment with audio-visual elements.”
Approximately £10,000 will also be required to strip out the old facility.
The council is seeking a “phased approach” to minimise the cost, with funding being sought from the NI War Memorial Trust, Northern Ireland Museums Council and the US Rangers Association.
Backing option two, DUP Cllr Cheryl Johnston called the museum the “perfect place to link and increase the potential of the economic and tourism strategy,” and said that refurbishment would boost visitor numbers and attract school groups.
Independent Cllr Jim Brown said he would back option three and called for the council to contact the American Consul in Belfast and the US Rangers to develop the links further.
The council’s director of Economic Growth, Regeneration and Tourism Linda Williams told the committee that the council felt it “can accommodate up to option two with existing resources.”
“We fully intend to look at the three options,” she added.
UUP Councillor John Stewart said the museum was “not open at all in Winter and in summer it’s very limited.”
“If we’re looking to branch out it will be difficult with the opening hours we have,” he stated.
“These are assets in our own borough and community and if we get a better opportunity to see it will be good.”
Ms Williams said council was “looking for creative options,” but “at the moment the business case is not there to open it 24/7.”
Cllr Brown proposed that a full business case be brought forward for approval at the next Policy and Resources Committee, and was seconded by Cllr William McCaughey.