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A ‘historic day’ in Old Town marked by groundbreaking of expansion at Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West

Western Spirit to grow in stature due to generosity of Louis ‘Buzz’ Sands IV
By Terrance Thornton | Digital Free Press

Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024 was a special day in Old Town Scottsdale.

It was in the afternoon hours of that day leaders of the community came together to mark the unparalleled generosity of a prominent Valley family fueling the expansion of a dream realized by so many who call the community of Scottsdale home.

That vision has come to reality at Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West as Scottsdale community stewards broke ground on a highly anticipated expansion made possible by Louis “Buzz” Sands IV, who is a respected entrepreneur and owner of several car dealerships across the Valley of the Sun.

The 11,360-square-foot extension of Western Spirit will include the construction of two entirely new galleries, to be named the Louis Sands IV Center. These galleries will become home to a diverse collection of artworks, artifacts, and stories that further illuminate the American West, museum officials tell the Arizona Digital Free Press.

The Scottsdale City Council unanimously approved the expansion of Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West in September 2023. The expansion project is undertaken by Studio Ma in collaboration with CORE Construction.

“I am honored to be here,” said Western Spirit Executive Director and CEO Todd Bankofier at the Jan. 10 groundbreaking ceremony held on museum grounds at 3830 N. Marshall Way in Old Town Scottsdale. “We are so thankful for — this has been a voyage.”

But from day No. 1, failure was never an option, Mr. Bankofier explained, pointing out the determination of the original few who envisaged a testament to the old west where locals call ‘The West’s Most Western Town.’

“I worked for Jim Bruner 35 years ago and when he had a vision to bring Major League Baseball to the Valley, he would often say, ‘failure is not an option,’ Mr. Bankofier said of Mr. Bruner’s political will and determination during his time as an elected leader. “When we had the vision for this museum, Jim, again reminded us that failure was not an option.”

Mr. Bruner is steadfast in his commitment to making the Valley of the Sun — and in particular Scottsdale — a better place to live and work for everyone.

Mr. Bruner who served as master of ceremonies during the Western Spirit Jan. 10 groundbreaking ceremony, was elected to two terms at Scottsdale City Council and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.

Mr. Bruner cast the deciding vote to implement the funding mechanism to create the current home of the Arizona Diamondbacks — 2023 National League Champions — at Chase Field, 401 E Jefferson St.

A ‘historic day’ for the community of Scottsdale

Since its inauguration in January 2015, Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West — a Smithsonian affiliate — has played an important role in preserving the rich history and cultural heritage of the American West, and community of Scottsdale.

“This is truly a historic day for the city of Scottsdale, the museum and the state of Arizona,” Mr. Bruner said while delivering remarks at the Jan. 10 groundbreaking ceremony. “Arts and culture is part of the DNA of Scottsdale.”

Mr. Bruner explained Scottsdale became a destination for the arts beginning in the 1940s when Eleanor Roosevelt — who was First Lady of the United States from 1933 to 1945 — hosted a national radio show where she would often mention Scottsdale, a place she would regularly visit due to the artistic community of the area.

“The arts are important not just for the visitors but also for the residents,” he said recalling the idea of Western Spirit was sprung while watching a baseball game. “We didn’t have anything. All we had were hopes and dreams, and without all of you trustees today we would not be here today. There is not one dime of public monies invested in this place, not one dime. This was paid for by our visitors and we thank you for that.”

Mayor David Ortega provided remarks explaining the community of Scottsdale is at the ‘intersection of the Old West’ pointing out so many characters of the Old West often came from all over the world looking to forge a new life in the western frontier of the mid-1800s.

“This is a great city and place because we built it this way, we wanted it this way,” Mayor Ortega said. “Part of our spirit has grown into the Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West. All of these things are cumulative — our good deeds out last us.”

Following remarks from the family of Mr. Sands, and the reading of a letter from Michael J. Fox, the inaugural CEO of Western Spirit, the current Chairman of the Board of Trustees, David Sherf, offered the crowd a preview of what is to come to fruition in Old Town Scottsdale.

“What a wonderful and historic day for this museum especially with all the trustees and members of this audience,” he said. “At the beginning, we had nothing and to me that is what the western spirit is all about.”

Western Spirit features regularly changing and permanent exhibitions of Western and Native American art and artifacts, entertaining events, and informative programs that bring the West’s heritage, culture, and community to life.

“We are really moving forward,” Mr. Sherf said. “We are calling this an addition, but once it is finished it will be seamless — what we have come up with is new, immersive and engaging geared toward families.”

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