Despite losing $6M in funds, backers still push for building Route 66 Experience

The supporters of a Route 66 Experience complex near the banks of the Arkansas River in Tulsa still want to proceed with the project despite recently losing $6 million in funding from the city, according to one report.

Public Radio Tulsa seems to be the first media outlet reporting the loss of the $6 million after the Route 66 Experience lost its exclusivity agreement in 2017 with the city. The city apparently is moving in another direction after multiple delays in the project’s groundbreaking and slow fundraising.

The city recently decided to reallocate those sales-tax funds possibly for another museum as part of a development 11th Street (aka Route 66) and Lewis Avenue, near the popular Mother Road Market. A document sent to prospective architecture firms by ITulsa LLC states the company is building a $40 million mixed-use development that will include retail, 250 multi-family units and a 12,000-square-foot Route 66 museum.

Ken Busby, the Route 66 Alliance’s executive director who’s leading the Route 66 Experience project, said he doesn’t think the proposed alternate museum and the Route 66 Experience would compete 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. […]
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.

Busby still hopes to have it open by 2022.

In an email, Busby stated the Alliance has raised $8 million in gifts and pledges so far.

“We wish to secure the entire $23 Million for the Route 66 Experience in cash and pledges before actually breaking ground,” he stated. “We prefer to err on the side of caution.”

Busby said the fact the city is reallocating $6 million is disappointing, “but all of our current donors prefer the expanded vision of the Route 66 Experience at Southwest Blvd. and Riverside Drive. Scaling down the project from 50,000 sq. ft. to 10,000 sq. ft simply doesn’t provide the same level of experience or audience engagement opportunities from a tourism and economic development perspective. So while we welcome any positive development on the 26 miles of Route 66 in Tulsa, we plan to continue our efforts on Cry Baby Hill.”

Busby continued:

“We are committed to this site due to the historic significance of the Cyrus Avery Memorial Bridge in the history of Route 66 in Oklahoma. Without this bridge, Route 66 would never have come through Oklahoma. Locating the Route 66 Experience overlooking the Cyrus Avery Memorial Bridge and Plaza allows us to complete the vision of the Route 66 Master Plan completed in 2003, and to highlight the history of this area while also increasing awareness of Route 66 development, especially in west Tulsa.  We have received several calls and inquiries in the past eight weeks that are encouraging for our original vision, and new potential donors have signaled interest in our project.  We are very hopeful that the original concept, envisioned by Route 66 Alliance Co-Founder, Michael Wallis, will be realized very soon.”

A question that went unanswered was whether the Alliance foresaw a scenario or “drop-dead” date that would prompt it to give up on the Route 66 Experience.

The 42,000-square-foot Route 66 Experience would contain interactive and multimedia exhibits, a museum, restaurant and a retail shop.

(An artist’s rendering of the proposed Route 66 Experience in Tulsa)

One thought on “Despite losing $6M in funds, backers still push for building Route 66 Experience

  1. “Despite losing $6M in funds, backers still push for building Route 66 Experience”?

    How can anyone lose something they never had?

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