TULSA, Okla. — After years of discussion, plans are finally moving forward to bring “The Route 66 Experience” to Tulsa.
Ken Busby, the Executive Director of the Route 66 Alliance, says the vision for this project originated with the founder of the Alliance, Michael Wallis, back in 2011.
Serious discussions have been taking place over the past six years. Busby says they finally hope to break ground on the project in the fall.
Plans for “The Route 66 Experience” call for building an interactive center on property located near the Cyrus Avery Bridge.
The goal is to share the story of the historic Route 66 with the world.
“Route 66 is an iconic highway,” said Busby, “it’s the first national highway in America, it represents open spaces, it represents opportunity, and people from around the world see that.”
Busby says the pandemic gave them the opportunity to come up with the idea of adding a motel, which spurred more interest in the project and brought more private dollars to the table.
The projected cost of the project, which includes a restaurant, gift shop, event space and parking garage, is about 33 million dollars financed through private and public funding, including potential ARPA dollars.
Busby says the location was selected due to its close proximity to the old 11th Street bridge built in 1917, which has a lot of history behind it.
Busby noted they will use technology including augmented reality to share the story of the important role Cyrus Avery played in the history of bringing Route 66, which stretches from Chicago to Santa Monica, California into existence.
“He convinced them to come to Tulsa,” Busby said, “because we had the first concrete and steel reinforced bridge across the Arkansas River anywhere in the country. You had to cross the Arkansas River to get to CA.”
He says the project is designed to encourage visitors to experience Route 66 for themselves, as well as other cultural centers.
“You just need to come to Oklahoma and have these experiences,” Busby said, “and we will help you figure out your trips, places to go, places to see, places to eat, we’ll help you do that.”
James Wegner, who owns a restaurant along Route 66 in the Mother Road Market, hopes visitors will do exactly that.
“I think people still love Route 66,” Wegner said, “so I think that capitalizing on that and working within that – I think that’s a great idea.”
Visitors from Kansas City, Kansas stopped by Tally’s Diner during their visit to Tulsa on Wednesday. They expressed interest in visiting “The Route 66 Experience” when it opens in 2024. “We’ll hopefully be here more in the future and then definitely visit it if its here,” said Sterling Kelley.
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