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Backers Still Pushing to Get Route 66 Experience Built

Selser Schaefer Architects

Backers of the Route 66 Experience, an interpretive center planned for near Cyrus Avery Plaza, plan to move forward with the project despite losing more than $6 million in public funding.

The City of Tulsa is reallocating those funds from a sales tax package, likely to a Route 66 museum now proposed as part of a development at 11th Street and Lewis Avenue. Route 66 Alliance Executive Director Ken Busby is trying to get the Route 66 Experience built and said he doesn’t see the two projects as being in competition with each other.

"I’m a firm believer that a rising tide lifts all boats. So, I think it’s great to do a museum at 11th and Lewis, and I think it’s great that we can also do the Route 66 Experience on Crybaby Hill. There’s room for this and then many more developments," Busby said.

An exclusivity agreement the City of Tulsa had with the Route 66 Experience expired last year. Officials decided to find a new project for the funding rather than renew the agreement.

Busby said he's had several good fundraising meetings in recent months.

"It has certainly taken longer than I ever anticipated to raise the funding, but I think we’ve got a really strong resurgence right now and a really strong interest in Route 66, and I think we can really take that and run with it and make something really exciting happen," Busby said.

Oklahoma Route 66 Association President Rhys Martin said he's all for Mother Road projects that lure tourists.

"Whatever goes in place at 11th and Lewis is going to be a great boon for Route 66 in Tulsa and the region, really. Mother Road Market’s doing really well. It’s bringing a lot of people in, and everything you can do to make that intersection walkable and have more to do is just going to act as a great anchor for locals and travelers," Martin said.

Plans for the Route 66 Experience include interactive exhibits, restaurants and a drive-in movie theater. Supporters are hopeful it will open in late 2022.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.