City Leaders Plan To Take Advantage Of Route 66 Appeal

Friday, November 9th 2012, 10:24 pm
By: Tess Maune

Stretching across Green Country is an untapped resource that could bring big bucks to Tulsa.

Route 66 travels 23 miles through the city, and leaders say, as of right now, it leaves a lot to be desired.

Parked in the heart of Route 66, sits a new, larger-than-life sculpture, celebrating the man who started it all.

City leaders say the dedication of the "East Meets West" sculpture is just the beginning of what's to come along Tulsa's Old 66.

10/26/2012 Related Story: New Sculpture Along Route 66 In Tulsa Nearing Completion

Over the years, leaders say the Mother Road has been somewhat forgotten in Tulsa.

"I think it's the biggest missed opportunity in the city of Tulsa. We've got this kind of international attraction in Route 66, this hugely popular brand," said Tulsa City Councilor Blake Ewing.

"It's something beautiful, something wonderful that just needs to be dusted off and polished up," said City Planner Dennis Whitaker.

Rich with history, Route 66 brings in visitors from all over the world.

But Ewing says those tourists seem to just pass through, because in its current state, Tulsa's 66 isn't offering a reason to stick around.

"We're missing it. Those people should be stopping, staying in our hotels, spending money in our restaurants and our retail shops and experiencing Tulsa for themselves, as part of the Route 66 story," Ewing said.

So, Ewing spearheaded the Route 66 task force back in January. It's comprised of city leaders, business owners and Tulsans who care about the legendary highway.

Ewing said the city has about $7 million in Vision 2025 funding that will go toward helping business owners improve their building and signage aesthetics to have that nostalgic Route 66 feel.

"We really believe that driving through Tulsa, you should have neon signs on both sides of the road. It's really a citywide attraction," Ewing said.

It's a potential attraction and an icon, that leaders say is about to come alive once again.

A lot of plans are already in the works, like an interpretive center that would be built across from the new Cyrus Avery sculpture, and gateways at each end of the route.

City leaders are also working to alter some zoning and sign codes so businesses can stay true to the era of Old Route 66.