Tacoma’s engine revved for new $60M LeMay Car Museum

Tacoma is prepared this week to celebrate the grand opening of a new automobile museum downtown.

PHOTO BY DAVID IMANAKA / COURTESY LEMAY--AMERICA'S CAR MUSEUM

PHOTO BY DAVID IMANAKA / COURTESY LEMAY--AMERICA'S CAR MUSEUM

The centerpiece of the nine-acre, $60 million LeMay–America’s Car Museum campus is the four-story 165,000 square foot Collector Car Center, which houses the “Showcase Galleries,” the “Innovation and Technology Experience,” in addition to the State Farm “Theatre-in-the-Round” and an interactive zone that includes a variety of vehicle simulators and hands-on activities. The museum campus also include a theater, classrooms, restaurant, retail store and banquet space for 400 to 500 people. The Collector Car Center also houses the Car Care Center — a multi-bay garage area where museum vehicles will be preserved and prepared for displays, exhibits or events. It also houses storage for nearly 700 vehicles in “The Vaults.” Although not in active displays, these vehicles are viewable by the public. Outside, the 3.5 acre Show Field is a multipurpose, outdoor venue for car shows, auctions and swap meets, car club events, new car launches, concerts and a even a “world-class” Concours d’Elegance.

The museum is named after the late Harold E. LeMay, who made his fortune building one of the largest refuse businesses in the United States. His success in business allowed him to amass a massive car collection. In 1997, the Guinness Book of World Records recognized the LeMay Collection as the largest private collection in the world with 2,200 vehicles. However, at one time after that, the LeMay Collection actually exceeded 3,400 vehicles. The new museum will actively display 250 vehicles at one time. Museum officials expect to welcome 500,000 visitors annually.

The three-day grand opening celebration begins on Friday evening with preview parties inside the museum providing a variety of fun experiences that will include cars from the collection, interactive exhibits, live music, and dancing. Tickets for the Friday night festivities have sold out. While the night begins with three separate dinner parties, all partygoers will be able to enjoy the entire museum after dinner, at 9 p.m. and are invited to the “Rev it Up” Club to mix, mingle and continue the celebration. Coffee and dessert will be served and a cigar tent will be set up outside.

On Saturday, the celebration continues with a free outdoor car show beginning at 9 a.m., which will fill the Haub Family Field with hot cars and cool rides. At 10 a.m., the museum will hold its official grand opening ceremonies also on the Haub Family Field. One hour later, the museum doors will open to the public for the first time. Between 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. retired Seattle Mariner Edgar Martinez will make an appearance in the State Farm space in the Banquet Hall. Saturday evening at 5 p.m. will be marked with a free concert featuring the Kim Archer Band and nine-time Grammy award winners Asleep at the Wheel performing on the Miller Family Stage.

Finally, on Sunday the museum will host another free car show on Haub Family Field, go-kart racing between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. in the parking lot and another opportunity to show the museum and its exhibits to friends and family.

The LeMay–America’s Car Museum is located at 2702 East D Street in Tacoma. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week during the summer, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday during the winter. Admission is $14 for adults; $12 for seniors (age 65), students, and military personnel; $8 for youth (ages 5-12); and free for children under 5 years old and museum members. More information is online here.