Route 66 Experience may become part of a $35 million hotel project in Tulsa

The long-planned Route 66 Experience interactive museum by the nonprofit Route 66 Alliance appears to have new life as part of a proposed $35 million hotel complex on the banks of the Arkansas River in Tulsa.

KTUL-TV in Tulsa reported the developers hope to break ground on the project later this year.

It’s described as an immersive experience to learn about the Mother Road and would include a museum, gift shop, restaurant, hotel, and drive-in theater.
The site is an empty hill and parking lot at the intersection of Southwest Boulevard and Riverside Drive near the Cyrus Avery bridge.

I contacted Ken Busby, executive director of the Tulsa-based Route 66 Alliance, through Facebook Messenger to get more clarification on the proposed project.

Busby declined to name the party that seeks to develop the hotel, but noted the project is slated to cost about $35 million. He also told KRMG radio they hope to break ground in the fall.

Busby said the Alliance and its Route 66 Experience would be a tenant of the complex. As a result, the Alliance won’t need to raise as much money for its part, and “we’re close to the total that we need.”

“They’re wanting to support what I’m doing, which is really nice!” Busby wrote in a message.

Busby told the station that Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell, who also leads the state’s tourism department, has provided a lot of support for the proposal. He said the goal now is to have the hotel and the Route 66 Experience open by 2024, well before Route 66’s centennial in 2026.

The City of Tulsa in October announced a request for proposals for a new Route 66 center at the site. The proposals are due on Jan. 19. The city has $5 million in public funds available to assist with the project.

The initial 42,000-square-foot, $19.5 million Route 66 Experience project was announced for the same site in May 2015, with a projected groundbreaking of summer 2016. Such a facility in Tulsa had been proposed as far back as 2003.

But fundraising for the project continued to come up short, and projected groundbreaking dates were repeatedly pushed back.

(Image of the pedestrian bridge at the Cyrus Avery Centennial Plaza site in Tulsa, near the proposed site for the Route 66 Experience and hotel)

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