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Scottsdale Railroad and Mechanical Society offers $1M for pending bunkhouse revitalization

Photo of Scottsdale Railroad Park
A view of the local attraction a part of the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park. (File Photos/

Scottsdale eyes enhancements at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park

By Terrance Thornton | Digital Free Press

The Scottsdale Railroad and Mechanical Society is providing a $1 million donation to City Hall early next week to provide a financial shot-in-the arm to the pending McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park bunkhouse capital project.

The $1 million donation sets into motion and provides the last dollar toward completion of the budget for the overall cost — $8,587,908 — for the creation of an 8,000-square-foot, McCormick-Stillman bunkhouse.

Scottsdale City Council will vote on the acceptance of the million-dollar gift at its June 21 regular meeting at City Hall, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd.

“To boost summer attendance and to give park visitors better entertainment options during the hot Arizona months, the city is proposing to demolish the existing unused, outdated bunkhouse and construct an approximately 8,000-square-foot, multiuse facility in its place with an indoor train-themed play structure, indoor/outdoor restrooms, party/event space, staff office space, shaded outdoor area, and event lawn/plaza,”

— Bill Murphy, Scottsdale assistant city manager

A part of the fiscal year 2022-23 capital improvement budget is a line item at $8,587,908 for the McCormick- Stillman bunkhouse capital project, Mr. Murphy said in his report to City Council.

“This project is estimated to bring in an additional $1,500,000-$2,000,000 in annual revenues,” he pointed out of the return on municipal investment. “This action will contribute to fully-fund the project: the Scottsdale Railroad and Mechanical Society’s donation of $1,000,000 added to the city’s commitment of $7,587,908 complete the budget of $8,587,908.”

Mr. Murphy explains the place locals call “The Scottsdale Railroad Park” is a local destination for families in and around the park, 7301 E. Indian Bend Road.

“As a city park, entrance to the park is free and tickets must be purchased for train or carousel rides,” he said. “The park contributes to Scottsdale’s tourism industry and brings in upwards of $2,000,000 to the park annually. Currently, ride attendance averages over 500,000 annually.”

As with all outdoor activities during the summer months in Arizona, Mr. Murphy says, the new construction will provide an annual draw to the local park attraction.

“Once completed, the maintenance of the bunkhouse will have minimal General Fund impact as the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park is mainly funded by user fees, which are deposited in a special programs account,” he said. “At estimated revenues of $l,500,000-$2,000,000 annually, this project recoups its total estimated cost in 4-6 years.”

From a procedural perspective, not accepting the gift this Tuesday would stall the already-approve CIP project, Mr. Murphy points out.

A hummingbird takes flight at the Scottsdale Civic Center Plaza in May 2022. (Photo: Arianna Grainey/

Brief background

Chartered in 1971, the Scottsdale Railroad & Mechanical Society is the central part of the agreement with the city of Scottsdale to establish a railroad park on donated land. The Scottsdale Railroad and Mechanical Society provides financial and technical assistance to the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park for the enhancement and the enjoyment of the park by children, their families and railroad enthusiasts.

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