The Illinois Office of Tourism visited the Caterpillar Visitors Center Wednesday afternoon, part of a six-city campaign to highlight tourism progress in the state.
Illinois attracted more visitors than ever last year and generated a record $32 billion in tourism. The IOT says Peoria reeled in $295 million in direct spending from tourists in 2011, up ten percent from 2010.
Peoria is anticipated to see a boom in tourism with the additions of the Caterpillar Visitors Center and the Riverfront Museum. The Caterpillar Visitors Center is expected to attract thousands of tourists annually.
Jim Baumgartner, Caterpillar's director of public affairs, said the center is "75 percent complete." Construction is well ahead of schedule, something Baumgarter claims is the result of great construction weather.
Right now, there's much work to be done inside the center. However, most of the walls are already decorated with murals of Caterpillar employees across the nation. Once coupled with cutting edge, interactive displays, the 50,000 sq. ft. facility will give an inside look into CAT's global operations. It's an idea that impressed IOT deputy director Jan Kostner.
"This is just going to be incredible, and I think people are just going to be blown away with the interactive, and the high tech and the interesting things that the CAT visitor's center has," she said.
By far, the museum's most notable attraction is a 70 person theater built inside a life-sized model of the company's largest mining truck. The "797" truck stands 30 feet high and could block three lanes of traffic.
"This is a great example of what Caterpillar is. Big equipment, doing big things around the world that virtually no other company can do," Baumgartner said.
The center's grand opening is set for October 20th.