Kentucky Coal Academy
Portal 31 Mine Exhibition’s successful combination of history and state-of-the-art technology has acquired a prestigious Kentucky Department of Travel and Tourism designation. Located in Lynch on the historic grounds of the former U.S. Steel mine operation, and open to the public since October of 2009, the Portal 31 Mine Exhibition has been added to a list of Kentucky Tourism superlatives that stand out for their unique appeal.
Entitled “There’s Only One,” the Kentucky Department of Travel and Tourism has initiated a marketing campaign that promotes “unique” attractions within The Commonwealth. Recently, 13 new attractions were added to the “There’s Only One” list, including Lynch’s Portal 31 Mine Exhibition.
“It is an honor to be recognized as a unique destination spot for visitors who are seeking education, adventure, history, their own roots, or just something really different to do,” said Kentucky Coal Museum Curator, Phyllis Sizemore, who also oversees the operation of Portal 31. “We constantly hear from visitors that our Portal 31 underground tour is special because of the animatronics, the mantrip rail ride, and the high-tech exhibits. Now, with this designation, all of Kentucky knows.”
Perhaps Portal 31’s most unique attribute is that it is currently the only underground mine tour of a former coal operation offered in the United States. Portal 31 was part of the U.S. Coal & Coke Subsidiary of U.S. Steel that built a coal mining operation in Lynch in 1917, which soon became the largest in the world. During the coal camp’s zenith, 38 nationalities were represented. Those 38 nationalities produced longtime miners who toiled beneath Big Black Mountain to provide for their families and to fuel a global economy that was fast becoming more industrialized. Now, almost 100 years later, people are still coming from all over the world to see the historic towns of Lynch and Benham, where the Kentucky Coal Museum is located, and to take part in the unique Portal 31 underground experience.
“The company may have ceased mine operations years ago, but Portal 31 is still alive with moving, grinding gears that is part of an impressive, modern animatronic system that tells the story of Kentucky coal,” Sizemore said. “Portal 31 is unique in presenting the history of coal mining and coal miners to visitors. The education is eye-opening and the experience is not to be missed.”
According to Kentucky Department of Travel and Tourism officials, the “There’s Only One” marketing campaign differentiates Kentucky from other destinations by emphasizing attractions and events that travelers to and within The Commonwealth can experience that cannot be replicated anywhere else. The campaign will roll out during the course of the year on radio, TV, print and Web-based advertising. It is also being incorporated into all facets of the Department of Travel and Tourism, including the Official Visitors Guide, social media, welcome centers and other communication efforts. Local tourism organizations throughout the state are being encouraged to adopt the “There’s Only One” theme as well.
“The foundation of ‘There’s Only One’ is very simple and at the same time extremely compelling,” said Commissioner Mike Cooper of the Kentucky Department of Travel and Tourism. “Travelers are seeking memorable and authentic experiences that exist in only one place. Kentucky is blessed with many of those, and they form the basis for our ‘There’s Only One’ campaign.”
So far, 31 Kentucky attractions have been designated, including Mammoth Cave, Cumberland Falls, and The Kentucky Horse Park. Portal 31 was among the 13 newest attractions added. Some of the other newest designees include Petersburg’s Creation Museum, Bardstown’s ‘The Stephen Foster Story,’ and Central Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail. The “There’s Only One” designees are selected by a committee of tourism specialists.
“You can travel to the far reaches of the globe and not see and experience what you can discover in Kentucky,” said Marcheta Sparrow, secretary of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet.
Sizemore agrees, but she admits she’s more partial to the coal mining history that can be experienced in her corner of the state.
“To travel beneath Big Black Mountain on the rail ride, learn the history, listen to the voices from the past, and to feel the excitement, is truly a one-of-a-kind experience,” Sizemore said.
For more information about the Portal 31 Mine Exhibition or the Kentucky Coal Museum, contact Sizemore at (606) 848-1530. To learn more about the “There’s Only One Kentucky” campaign, log onto http://www.onlyonekentucky.com/.