SACRAMENTO -- The California National Guard will convert a warehouse facility in midtown Sacramento into a state of the art military museum.
At a groundbreaking ceremony, Adjutant General David Baldwin told a group of dignitaries that relocating the museum from a now closed site in Old Sacramento was the right move.
He said citizen soldiers of the National Guard should be partners with the community.
"This will become a venue for organizations to come in and have their receptions and their events against the backdrop of our rich military history," said Baldwin.
The state's Military Department said the facility will be the cornerstone of a statewide military museum system that will incorporate four sites statewide and have traveling exhibits.
The former museum was operated by a nonprofit foundation that was criticized for not keeping track of state monies and military artifacts, something foundation members denied.
After a court settlement, the Military Department acquired a majority of the museum's collection and added it to thousands of military artifacts it already possessed.
While the Old Sacramento location had more foot traffic, the new location is owned by the state and has free parking.
The 3-acre site at 28th and B streets has building space for exhibits as well as a dedicated restoration facility.
"Now we can display tanks, we can display helicopters, and that is what really attracts families and children," said Military Department spokesperson Col. Peter B. Cross.
Some members of the California State Military Museum Foundation, which hopes to reopen the Old Sacramento museum, attended the ceremony.
"I have to say I'm very impressed," said retired Col. Bill Fortier, who advises foundation members.
Fortier says while they are lining up financial support to reopen their museum, the groundbreaking of the new museum gives them options.
"I'm sure they're willing to open discussions and work with General Baldwin and the California National Guard," said Fortier of the foundation board.
Recognizing that any museum needs a large corps of volunteers, Cross said the new military museum will welcome anyone who wants to help create a first class museum.
Vietnam vet Phil Rios, a docent at the old museum, says he'll now help out at the new facility because he has a passion for exposing young people to the sacrifices made by soldiers for their country.
"I'm going to volunteer as much of my time as I can," said Rios.
The new facility is expected to be open to the public within two years, and unlike the old museum, won't charge admission.