A letter to the editor featured Sunday in the Tulsa World encapsulates the frustrations many Tulsans feel about the Route 66 part of the Vision 2025 sales-tax program.
You can read the letter by Scott Swearingen here. A few key parts:
On almost any day, I see visitors to Tulsa stopping to admire the Cyrus Avery statue, which honors the Tulsan and creator of Route 66, “The Mother Road.”
After spending a few minutes and taking some photos, the visitors drive away. As they leave, many potential dollars leave with them because there is no place for them to learn more about Route 66, buy Route 66 memorabilia, have a meal and learn more about other attractions in Tulsa. […]
According to the director of the Clinton Route 66 Museum, 42,000 people came to the museum last year. Each person spent about $200 during their stay – in the museum store, for food, gasoline, lodging and shopping in Clinton. More than $800,000 coming to the economy in Clinton.
Think of what 42,000 additional visitors could mean to the Tulsa economy. […]
What is Tulsa waiting for?
The writer’s notion that the museum is “the only Route 66 project that has not been completed” isn’t true. The Route 66-themed “gateways” on the east and west edges of town haven’t been erected and probably won’t be this year. This April report from Vision 2025 details other Route 66 projects that aren’t finished.
But Swearingen gets the point across. Voters approved Vision 2025 more than 10 years ago, and a great many — including Vision 2025 supporter and prominent Route 66 author Michael Wallis — anticipated a Route 66 museum being open long before now.
The reasons why the museum hasn’t opened are complicated. The most simple summary is the project was a lot more expensive than anticipated. The City of Tulsa, dealing with a string of tight budgets, remains leery about being on the hook with a museum that may cost tens of millions of dollars and many more dollars to run, and is seeking partnerships with private companies to share the costs.
This is the latest status report, from April, on the museum:
The design contract for Phase 1 has been executed and the kickoff meeting was held in January 2011 for program development. Consultants have submitted a new rendering of the building. A draft is under review by the legal department.
Unlike many other projects, no estimated completion date is listed.
Maybe the state-of-the-art Route 66 Experience (as it’s often been called) will eventually be built. But since voters approved Vision 2025 a decade ago, more than 10 museums featuring Route 66 have opened or will open shortly.
The eventual Tulsa museum could well knock visitors’ socks off and become a big success. But one can’t help but wonder whether the delays — and all the museum competition — will hurt the Tulsa museum’s viability.
(An artist’s rendering of Tulsa’s Route 66 museum, circa 2003)