Conner Prairie receives grant from Allen Whitehill Clowes Charitable Foundation


By Mark Ambrogi

A generous grant from Indianapolis-based Allen Whitehill Clowes Charitable Foundation will put Conner Prairie in position for long-term energy efficiency.



The Fishers interactive history park received $400,000 for a capital improvement project.

“We know we have to address this aging facility that was built in 1988 that has very inefficient heating and cooling,” Conner Prairie President/CEO Norman Burns said. “That has to be addressed today and continues to be addressed in the future, and that’s why this is such a remarkable grant to be received from the Clowes Foundation because it’s not the typical type of grant. A lot of time getting infrastructure improvements is not a sexy thing. We appreciate that Clowes Foundation is willing to work us on this because it really will enable the environment better for our guests, for our employees and the future.”

The Welcome Center at Conner Prairie, 13400 Allisonville Rd., is a two-floor, 74,000-square-foot structure that is home to administrative offices, guest services, three exhibits that are open year-round, classrooms, a theater, meeting and conference spaces and a retail store.

Five of the 11 HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) air-handling units will be replaced with new high-efficiency ones by mid-2017. Burns said he expects the work to start early next year. Burns said it depends when the equipment can be manufactured and delivered.

He said they plan to improve the ductwork in the future.

“Our guests will be able tell the difference from the consistency of the air delivery and the air itself being at a regular temperature,” Burns said. “We get a lot of fluctuation in air and relative humidity now because of the inefficiencies of the old equipment. We’re going to see significant cost savings even in this first phase, even though it’s hard to predict. While engineers can predict the type of savings based on the type of unit and its capacity, you just don’t know with a building from the late ‘80s isn’t the pristine environment that goes in today.”

Conner Prairie welcomes nearly 390,000 visitors each year.

Burns said funds used annually for basic infrastructure replacements will be directed toward more strategic long-term growth opportunities, such as fundraising and youth summer camps, which are two of the museum’s high-performing revenue generators.

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