Despite tornado damage at the historic Missouri State Penitentiary, the Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau will resume prison tours starting Oct. 1.
Visitors can go on the two-hour history or ghost tours, which will run through the CVB's tour season ending Nov. 30. Visitors can review the tour schedule and purchase tickets at MissouriPenTours.com.
A popular section of the prison tours is in Housing Unit 4, also known as "A Hall." Due to damage from the May 22 tornado, though, the CVB will not allow visitors into the building. That section of the tour will take place in front of the building instead.
Housing Units 1 and 3, which are also part of the prison tours, were damaged in the tornado, but that damage will not impact tours, said Brittney Mormann, CVB communications and film manager. The gas chamber was not damaged during the tornado, she added.
The CVB plans to set up storyboards so visitors can see images of the tornado damage.
Mormann said she does not think the tornado damage will deter people from touring.
"We receive so many calls from individuals asking us every day when we're going to reopen tours, so I do feel like we will have more people calling and booking than previous years," she said. "That's also due to the fact that people want to see the tornado damage as well and how that impacted MSP property because that is now a new layer of its history. I really do feel we will have more people than ever."
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October is usually the CVB's busiest month due to the fall weather and Halloween, Mormann added.
While Mormann and CVB Executive Director Diane Gillespie do not anticipate any safety issues when tours resume, they suggested visitors wear closed-toed shoes since there is broken glass in the area.
Access to the east of Housing Unit 2 and 4 will be restricted, and the Missouri Office of Administration will put up an orange fence to restrict access to Housing Unit 4, OA Director of Communications Brittany Ruess said.
Even if construction occurs during the remainder of the tour season, Gillespie said, the CVB will still operate the tours.
"Having the contractors over there working on the buildings, I think that sends a very positive message to our visitors that we are working to preserve the buildings for the future," she said. "We haven't given up. We're coming back, and we're coming back stronger."
The state is still assessing its next steps for MSP, Ruess said, adding it has not hired a contractor to repair MSP.
The net profits from the tours and merchandise sales go toward preserving the old prison site, Gillespie said. Last year's tour season generated $125,000-$150,000.
"How our tours go this year determines what we can put back in (to MSP)," she said.
The CVB has lost approximately $308,000 from June through August since the tours have been suspended, Mormann said.