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Rob Keck, WOW board chairman and director of conservation for Bass Pro Shops, speaks during SBJ’s 12 People live interview series.
SBJ photo by Wes Hamilton
Rob Keck, WOW board chairman and director of conservation for Bass Pro Shops, speaks during SBJ’s 12 People live interview series.

WOW board chairman teases additions

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Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium is not done growing, according to its board chairman.

Speaking as Springfield Business Journal’s guest this morning for the 12 People You Need to Know live interview series, Rob Keck said the WOW and Bass Pro Shops teams are working to bring more historical artifacts and conservation areas to the museum and aquarium.

“If you were there at the grand opening, you’re not up to date,” he said, pointing to the addition of the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame, shark tank diving attraction and other features. “This will continue.

“There’s experiences that John has had and continues to have as he’s traveled around the world, bringing it right here to Springfield.”

Among negotiations, Keck said the Minnesota-based Pope and Young Club is considering relocating its bowhunting hall of fame to WOW.

Pope and Young Club, like other conservation organizations, are looking to get their missions out in front of more people, Keck said. He pointed to the location of WOW and Bass Pro’s flagship store at Sunshine Street and Campbell Avenue, which he said is more trafficked than the St. Louis Gateway Arch.

“For all these different conservation groups, they’re looking for exposure,” said Keck, adding “when you’re nestled in some little country town, which is maybe a beautiful setting … there’s not many people that find you. Location, location, location becomes vitally important.

“They realize that if this is the conservation capital, which it is, they need to be here.”

Keck, who’s also director of conservation for Bass Pro, pointed to existing features in place that are on loan from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Conservation Training Center in West Virginia.

He’s especially proud of a letter on display at WOW that was written in 1906 by former President Theodore Roosevelt. The document, Keck said, created the first wildlife refuge at Pelican Island in Florida.

“It was a historic document, because since that time, over 230 million acres have been set aside in parks and public lands,” he said. “That was the genesis of it.”

Keck described former President George W. Bush visiting WOW for its launch last September and viewing Roosevelt’s letter. Keck said Bush had some choice four-letter words to describe its significance while marveling at the fact that a run-on sentence led to the creation of national parks.

He said the NCTC has a large storage center featuring historical artifacts from the beginning of the United States that are “under lock and key.”

“They have literally opened the vault up to us,” Keck said. “I’ve been to the NCTC. I’ve seen some of the things that are going to come to Springfield. It’s very exciting.”

During the 12 People interview, Keck also teased WOW traffic numbers he said would be released to the public soon. He declined to disclose those figures during the interview.

“It’s certainly a huge milestone,” he said. “It’s beyond our expectations.”

WOW’s impact on the city already has been documented by the Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau.

In May, the CVB released figures showing room demand rose by an average of 8.2 percent since WOW opened in September.

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