Push to make Route 66 driving force in Tulsa, tourism center could be hub for city attractions

Posted at 9:37 PM, Dec 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-08 23:00:19-05

TULSA---Ken Busby of The Ross Group is the front-man behind a proposed Route 66 megaplex, and he envisions a day when visitors come from near and far to experience Tulsa.

"And Route 66 is such an untold story,” said Busby.  “It could be an amazing driver for tourism and economic driver for the Tulsa community.”

His goal is to raise enough funds to build a state-of-the-art interactive center with restaurants, exhibits, and a movie theater to showcase the iconic road.


The facility would sit on Cry Baby Hill at the corner of Riverside Drive and Southwest Boulevard across from Cyrus Avery Plaza.


“I see people every day from Asia from Europe,” said Busby. “[They are] somewhere on this plaza near the bridge.  They're taking photos.”


The proposed two-story building would be visible to tens of thousands of cars that pass the location daily on Interstate-244.  Busby hopes to use the exposure to attract national sponsors like Ford Motor Company.


“It's a 23-million dollar project to do everything that we want to do with it,” he said. “We've raised about 13-million to date.  So, we're a little over halfway there.”


Designers and contractors are just waiting for the green light.  Busby hopes to break ground in Spring 2017, and open in Fall 2018.


He says his long-term vision is to have the historic bridge adjacent to Southwest Boulevard over the Arkansas River restored.


It’s currently fenced off to foot traffic, and the concrete is crumbling.He estimates the restoration costs between 19 and 20-million dollars.


“We want to see a future bond package or something to where we can bring the [Cyrus Avery Bridge] back into shape,” he says.  “Then you can have pedestrian traffic, bicycle traffic.  You can do food trucks on it.  You can do markets on it. You could do concerts from it.”


His projected timeline is tight.  But, he says the opportunities are endless.


The Route 66 Interpretive Center would cross-promote with other city attractions like The Gathering Place park, the Brady Arts District, and Philbrook and Gilcrease Museums to encourage people to experience all of Tulsa.


 “How do we work together?” Busby asks rhetorically.  “How do we promote each other?  And, how do we highlight Oklahoma which has more miles of Route 66 than any of the other eight states?”


Busby enlisted the help of Selser Schaefer Architects to design the Route 66 center. The same company designed Tulsa’s Hardesty Arts Center.

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