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10-story monument with eternal flame to fallen police competes for Brevard tourism funds

Imagine a 10-story-tall stainless-steel and aluminum monument, shaped like a figure-8 "infinity" symbol, rising from the ground not far from the NASA Causeway/State Road 405 and U.S. 1 in Titusville.


And near the top of the monument is a sculpted "rose of remembrance," painted blue, and acting as the base of a 10- to 20-foot-tall "eternal flame," kept lit by natural gas.


That is the vision of the American Police Hall of Fame & Museum, which is embarking on an $11.73 million expansion project — with the centerpiece being a $6.94 million United States Law Enforcement Eternal Flame, surrounded by a "Walk of Heroes" and a courtyard. 


And the group wants a $2.5 million tourism capital facilities grant from Brevard County for the project. That type of grant is funded by Brevard County's 5% Tourist Development Tax on hotel rooms and other short-term rentals, and is designated for projects designed to attract more visitors to the Space Coast.


The Police Hall of Fame project is competing against three other projects for county tourism capital grants in the current funding cycle: a $5.9 million grant request by the city of Cocoa Beach for renovations to a sports complex near Cocoa Beach High School; a $3 million grant request by the Space Coast Office of Tourism for upgrades to Lori Wilson Park in Cocoa Beach; and a $1.57 million grant request by the Merritt Island Redevelopment Agency, in conjunction with the Veterans Memorial Center, for an amphitheater within a county park site adjacent to the Veterans Memorial Center on Merritt Island.


But it's the Police Hall of Fame project that's likely to attract the most attention — and possibly heat — inside and outside of Brevard.


"This will be one-of-a-kind," said Barry Shepherd, executive director of the American Police Hall of Fame & Museum.


Discussion of the Police Hall of Fame expansion project comes against the backdrop of increased focus nationally on police-community relations, as well as on high-profile incidents involving police and the Black community, after a wave of the latest high-profile shootings and excessive use of force against African American men and women.


Various cases have contributed to spurring the Black Lives Matter movement and initiatives to "defund the police."


Titusville Police Chief John Lau alludes to this in his letter of support for the Police Hall of Fame project.


"At a time in our nation's history when law enforcement officers seem to be constantly under siege, I am thrilled to have in our own town and county a project that not only seeks to honor our living and fallen officers, but also works to build new bridges of understanding between our law enforcement and civilian communities," Lau wrote.


Lau said the project "will do much to inspire future generations and heal the scars that plague us today."


Raed Alshaibi, acting president of the Space Coast Progressive Alliance, said he believes the Police Hall of Fame project will help in bridging relationships between the law enforcement community and the general community.


The Space Coast Progressive Alliance hosted a forum on Wednesday on law enforcement issues that brought together municipal officials, police chiefs and community organization leaders.


Alshaibi said there are "bad apples" in law enforcement, just as there are in other professions. But he added that "we owe a lot of respect" to police officers, while also having a need to "open up the dialogue" and address issues of concern.


"This is a civic issue, not a political issue," Alshaibi said.

Alshaibi said he believes the Police Hall of Fame expansion is a good project that will "recognize heroes," adding that he personally would like to support it with a contribution.


'Spectacular memorial'

Among the more high-profile endorsements of the project to date is from victim advocate and television host John Walsh.

Walsh wrote that the eternal flame "will be a spectacular memorial to the service and sacrifice of the law enforcement community — the brave men and women who preserve the peace in America. The eternal flame is more than a stunning visual tribute. It shines a spotlight on the service, sacrifice and needs of law enforcement officers and their families across the country. The eternal flame will inspire, educate and motivate."  


During a recent presentation to the Tourist Development Council's Capital Facilities Committee, Tara Dixon Engel, president of the American Police Hall of Fame & Museum, said the project will help in "increasing knowledge of public safety and the importance of keeping our communities and our country safe."


The nine members of the Capital Facilities Committee are grading this project and the other three, and will announce their grades at a meeting this afternoon. They then will recommend how to divide up the money available for the capital facilities grants for projects that score high enough to qualify for a grant. Those recommendations go to the Tourist Development Council on Wednesday, and then to the County Commission, likely in October. 


The four applicants have asked for a total of $12.97 million in grants. But Space Coast Office of Tourism Executive Director Peter Cranis said only $4 million to $4.5 million will be available for such projects, based on current budget projections.


In the previous grant cycle, the American Police Hall of Fame asked for a $5.5 million grant for its expansion. The Merritt Island Redevelopment Agency and the Veterans Memorial Center sought $1.57 million for the Merritt Island amphitheater project.


But neither project scored high enough to qualify for any money under the grant's scoring system, which requires a minimum average score of 75.


Both applicants have since modified and expanded their applications, and are hoping for a different outcome today.

Scoring is based on such factors as impact on tourism and the local economy, project viability, project readiness and the availability of matching funds.


Multiphased approach

Engel described the Eternal Flame project as "stunning" and "spectacular."


But it will be only one part of the Police Hall of Fame complex's planned expansion, which also will include:

  • A 30,000-square-foot expansion of existing American Police Hall of Fame facility ($3.89 million). The expansion will include additional classroom space, more hands-on exhibits and a 10,000-square-foot Student Education Center. The Student Education Center will focus on science, technology, engineering and math classes, projects and events, and will include a technologically advanced crime lab.

  • A law-enforcement-themed, 18-hole miniature-golf course ($600,000). The golf course will be designed to allow players to find clues and solve crimes as they play.

  • The mini-golf course clubhouse ($115,400). The clubhouse will serve the mini-golfers and will offer food. Several national and regional food chains are being solicited to operate within the clubhouse.

  • A helicopter heliport ($100,000). This helicopter airport will serve visitors, law enforcement, emergency personnel or visiting VIPs. It also will serve as the pad site for helicopter tours for the general public.  

  • Three pavilions ($84,000). Two of the pavilions will accommodate parties of up to 20, while the third could handle groups of up to 50.


"That's quite a project you've got there," Tourist Development Council Chairman Giles Malone said after hearing the presentation at the Aug. 25 meeting of the Capital Facilities Committee, which he also chairs.


Shepherd said the expansion project could have a sizable positive impact on tourism. He expects attendance at the Police Hall of Fame to jump from the current 50,000 a year to 215,000 in 2023, with many of the visitors coming from outside the county. And he hopes to increase the complex's staff by 32 by the end of 2023.


The $2.5 million grant sought from the county represents only about 21% of the total project cost. Two affiliated organizations — the National Association of Chiefs of Police and the American Federation of Police and Concerned Citizens — have pledged a total of $2.5 million over the next 10 years for the project. The Police Hall of Fame also is seeking a $500,000 state grant for its building expansion.


In addition, the Police Hall of Fame is selling commemorative bricks for the "Walk of Heroes" pathway leading up to the flame. The bricks will have personalized messages from the donors, honoring a current or former police officer, a police department or law enforcement in general.



Bricks measuring 4-by-8 inches cost donors $125, netting a $100 profit for the project, according to data provided to the Capital Facilities Committee. The 8-by-8-inch bricks cost donors $240, netting a $200 profit for the project.


Shepherd said about $30,000 already has been raised from brick sales. 


The Police Hall of Fame will seek sponsorship donations ranging from $3 million ("Inferno" level) to $200,000 ("Keeper of the Flame" level) for the eternal flame project. Naming gifts and other sponsorships for other phases of the project range from $4 million for the museum expansion to $84,000 for the three pavilions. Other fundraising efforts also are planned, including sales of a commemorative "challenge coin." 


Three major donors have committed a total of about $500,000 to the expansion project, Shepherd said, although the donors want to stay anonymous for the time being.


Details of the project and updates are being posted on the website www.LEFlame.org.



Design symbolism 

The eternal flame project is dripping in symbolism, according to those putting the project together. The infinity-shaped stem represents "the never-ending devotion of these brave men and women, and our enduring commitment to honoring their lives and achievements." The base of the monument is accented with red and white stripes from the American flag, flanking the thin blue line, representing law enforcement. The star resting atop the base represents the stars of the U.S. flag and the star-shaped badge of many law enforcement agencies.



Shepherd said the flame itself typically will be 10 to 15 feet in height during nighttime hours, but will be somewhat smaller in the daytime, when it will be less visible. It will be increased to up to 20 feet during special events, and will be visible for a wide area, as it will be atop the 10-story infinity monument.


Shepherd said the required approval for the eternal flame project already has been received from the city of Titusville and the operators of the nearby Space Coast Regional Airport. And he said property owners near the facility have been positive about the project as well.


Shepherd is hoping to complete Phase 1 of the expansion — the eternal flame, courtyard and Walk of Heroes — by the end of 2021, assuming fundraising goes as anticipated.


Groundbreaking for Phase 1 is scheduled for Oct. 16, which also will mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of the American Police Hall of Fame in North Port, Sarasota County, when it was known as the National Police Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame moved to Miami in 1988 and to Titusville in 2003.


Phase 2 of the expansion — the mini-golf course, clubhouse, pavilions and landscaping — would be completed by the end of 2022.


Phase 3 — the museum expansion and heliport — would be completed by the end of 2023.


Admission prices have not been set. Shepherd said he expect to offer separate admissions for the eternal flame/courtyard/Walk of Fame, for the museum, for the mini-golf and for the helicopter ride, with combination tickets also available, potentially also including use of the indoor gun range on the site.


He also is hoping to offer joint ticket deals with other Titusville attractions, such as the American Space Museum and the Warbird Air Museum.



The Tourist Development Council's Capital Facilities Committee voted 5-3 to award the grants. The vote, in effect, overrides a provision of the 2020-21 guidelines for the grants that says "projects must meet an average minimum score of 75 to be eligible for funding."

The nine members of the Capital Facilities Committee scored the applications based on such factors as impact on tourism and the local economy, project viability, project readiness and the availability of matching funds.

The grant recommendations include:

  • $1.76 million to the Space Coast Office of Tourism for upgrades to Lori Wilson Park in Cocoa Beach. The applicant sought a $3 million grant as part of a $4.25 million project.

  • $1.27 million to the Merritt Island Redevelopment Agency, in conjunction with the Veterans Memorial Center, for an amphitheater within a county park site adjacent to the Veterans Memorial Center on Merritt Island. The applicants sought a $1.57 million grant as part of a $2.32 million project.

  • $714,000 to the American Police Hall of Fame & Museum in Titusville for the first phase of its planned three-phase expansion project, with the centerpiece being the United States Law Enforcement Eternal Flame atop a 10-story-tall stainless-steel and aluminum monument. The applicant sought a grant of $2.5 million as part of a $6.94 million project, which is the first phase of a three-phase expansion totaling $11.73 million.


The Capital Facilities Committee's recommendations will go to the Tourist Development Council on Wednesday, then to the Brevard County Commission in October. The County Commission will decide whether to award the grants or modify the recommendations.

Tourism capital facilities grants are funded by Brevard County's 5% Tourist Development Tax on hotel rooms and other short-term rentals.

In deciding to override the guideline for requiring an average minimum score of 75, the majority of the committee supported using a formula devised by Vice Chair Tom Hermansen, which took into account the average points the three applicants received and the applicants' overall ranking. The Lori Wilson Park project received an average score of 74.11; the amphitheater received an average score of 67.78; and the Police Hall of Fame project received an average score of 58.11. A fourth grant application was submitted by the city of Cocoa Beach for renovations to a sports complex near Cocoa Beach High School. It received an average score of 42.38 points and was not recommended for a grant. The city was seeking s $5.9 million grant.

Capital Facilities Committee members voting in favor of the grant recommendations were Hermansen, Eric Braga, Samir Patel, Jeff Whitehead and Keith Winsten.

Voting against the recommendations were Chairman Giles Malone, as well as members Hal Rose and Andy Ziegler. The ninth committee member, Joe Shanks, was absent from Monday's meeting, but had participated in the scoring of the projects, which occurred previously. The scores were compiled by Office of Tourism staff, and announced Monday.

It is unusual for a Tourist Development Council subcommittee to be so split on a vote. Malone — who also chairs the full Tourist Development Council — said after the meeting that he did not oppose recommending grants for the three highest-scoring applicants.

Malone said he just didn't agree with Hermansen's formula that had the effect of giving bonus points to the top-scoring applicant and taking points away from third-ranked applicant. He said he would have supported a formula based solely on the points received from each applicant, and not their ranking, too. During their meeting Monday in Cocoa, some committee members noted how wide-ranging the scores were. For example, the members' scores on the Police Hall of Fame project ranged from 27 from Patel to 91 from Whitehead.

Rose said he didn't like it when scores differed so much from one another, adding that it may be a sign of a lack of understanding of the scoring system on the part of at least some committee members.

In discussing the applications in general, Winsten said some applicants seemed to do well in formulating their case for the project's economic and tourism benefits, but the project itself did not seem to be well-developed. Other applications had the opposite strengths and weaknesses.

Hermansen said he liked the fact that three geographic areas of the county will benefit from the grant recommendations — Cocoa Beach, Merritt Island and Titusville.

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