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Battlefield converts former cafe into facility for tourists
By Preston Knight -- firstname.lastname@example.org
NEW MARKET -- The New Market Battlefield State Historical Park's transformation into a tourist information center is nearing completion.
The battlefield, which the Virginia Tourism Corp. certified as an information center several weeks ago, is converting its former cafe area, the Rusty Canteen, into a room full of brochures. About two-thirds of the racks are up, and the goal is to be in full operation by Feb. 1, director Scott Harris said.
The room will continue with cafe leftovers -- three vending machines -- while also adding a television to feature a rotation of advertisements featuring Virginia attractions. Harris said that in a 10-minute period, several loops of the same advertisement will be shown. Eventually, the television may become more interactive, with weather and reservation information available, he added.
The process began about six months ago, when the Shenandoah Valley Travel Association announced plans to close its nearby facility because of declining visitation numbers. The battlefield immediately became interested and is expecting to help itself and other attractions by serving as an information center.
"Whatever it looks like at the beginning of February will look a lot different at the beginning of August," Harris said. "It's been an evolving thing."
Fortunately for the battlefield, the work that has been and still needs to be done is occurring during the off-season for tourists. The information area, which was originally the Hall of Valor Museum's store, has been repainted and stands to have track lighting reinstalled, as well as lettering placed on the walls. Harris said the cost to the battlefield has been minimal.
However, he does expect the price for new signs proposed along George R. Collins Drive to be several thousand dollars. Harris said the battlefield has pitched an idea of a new combined sign marking the park and information center to the Virginia Department of Transportation. He is waiting to hear from Virginia Logos, the company the state has contracted for signs.
Signs along Interstate 81 will not need to change, he added.
The travel association had about 300 different brochures, and the battlefield is going through them before stocking the racks. Various guides will also be available to the public.
The brochures will be divided into several sections -- southern, central and northern Shenandoah Valley, as well as an area carrying information for other parts of the state. A map of Virginia also will be in the room.
The vending machines, which along with others on the property net several thousand dollars a year for the battlefield, will remain unless space becomes an issue, Harris said.
Battlefield officials have kept an open mind during the transformation.
"None of this figured into our planning a year ago, or barely six months ago," Harris said. "It's a little make it up as we went along."