Johnny Morris and Bass Pro Shops Announce Gifts for Conservation and Toursim

The Wonders of Wildlife Board of Directors today announced that Johnny Morris and Bass Pro Shops made a $1.3 million gift and an additional $2.7 million pledge to the Community Foundation of the Ozarks to support conservation and tourism projects for the Springfield area.

Rob Keck, Chair of the Wonders of Wildlife, American National Fish and Wildlife Museum Board, also announced today that the museum no longer plans to accept its designated portion of the city hotel-motel tax. This is consistent with the museum’s goal of constructing the new Conservation Education Center and completing the expansion of the WOW Museum totally through private donations and sales-tax revenue collected through the Museum Sales Tax District established for the Bass Pro complex.

The $1.3 million gift made today by Mr. Morris represents an amount equal to the hotel-motel revenue collected since the museum closed for expansion in December 2007. This private gift from Mr. Morris and Bass Pro Shops is an equivalent amount being invested into the community.

“From all of us at Bass Pro Shops, we are happy today to announce these pledges of support for the museum and Springfield,” Morris said. “We want the new museum, aquarium and education center to be a very positive, long-lasting benefit to our community and to the future of conservation in Missouri and nationally.

“We are excited about the dynamic quality of the facility that is being created,” Morris added. “It will be among the first of its kind ever built. Personally, I am very grateful to our museum Board Chairman Rob Keck and all of the museum board members. Collectively, they represent the Who’s Who of great conservation leaders and heroes in America. We can all be grateful and consider it an honor that they are donating their personal time and talents to help create this facility.”

Keck presented a check for $1.3 million to CFO Board Chair Cliff Brown and President Brian Fogle. In addition, Keck returned the most recent hotel-motel tax payment of $32,506.14 to Mayor Jim O’Neal.

“It is our hope that this money can be used to support a number of important community causes especially those relating to conservation, natural resources, and promoting tourism in the Springfield area,” Keck said.

A portion of the gift will be endowed, which means that its principle will remain intact and an annual distribution of its investment growth will be available each year for grants to non-profit agencies working in the areas of conservation, natural resources and tourism.

The pledge of the additional $2.7 million private gift over the next five years or less is equivalent to the hotel-motel revenue invested in the museum from the inception of that tax until 2007.

The CFO and Morris have previously collaborated on the Stewardship Ozarks Initiative.

That initiative, which included a lead gift from the Johnny Morris Foundation, raised about $670,000 beginning in 2007 to offer matching challenge grant funds to environmental and conservation non-profit agencies to build their endowments for long-term sustainability, as well as grants to conservation-related education projects.

“This gift offers incredible potential to maintain and enhance Springfield’s natural assets, as well as the economic benefits of our tourism economy, for many generations to come,” Fogle said. “We are very grateful for this gift and look forward to developing grantmaking opportunities for non-profit environmental and tourism agencies working in Springfield.”

The Museum’s decision to voluntarily opt out of the hotel-motel sales tax revenue approved by voters in 1998 for several community facilities, including the museum, will mean about $330,000 will be available for other eligible uses for the City of Springfield. The Museum will continue to use sales-tax revenue collected through the Museum Sales Tax District established for the Bass Pro complex. The Springfield City Council will determine how these newly available hotel-motel tax revenues will be allocated per the 1998 ballot language.

“This is an amazing opportunity for Springfield, made possible by the generosity of Johnny Morris and the Wonders of Wildlife Board of Directors,” Mayor Jim O’Neal said. “The ability to re-allocate future hotel-motel tax revenues will make our community even stronger.  And the private gift to the Community Foundation of the Ozarks is extremely generous.  All I can say is ‘Wow.’”