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Route 66 visitor center a long overdue asset

BERNALILLO COUNTY Commissioner, DISTRICT 2

The proposed Route 66 Visitors Center is not a “cart before horse” project as stated in an Albuquerque Journal editorial, published Nov. 26. I like hearing other peoples’ opinions, but I love an informed opinion based on the facts.

The Route 66 Visitors Center project has been in the development stages for about 10 years now. Way before I ever thought about becoming a county commissioner, there were leaders on the Southwest Mesa conducting neighborhood surveys and raising money to support a venue that would meet the needs of an overlooked community that has to fight for everything it gets. When this organizing effort first started in 2010, no one had a budget in mind. You had grassroots movers and shakers trying to make something happen.

Over the last year and a half, the Route 66 Visitors Center plan has become more concrete with dedicated supporters stepping up their efforts to find more money and create the kind of public/private partnerships that have propelled this project forward to where it is today.

So, people who believe the cart came before the horse don’t fully understand how this project came to be and how it’s evolved from a limited visitors center concept to a destination venue that can accommodate a diverse menu of attractions.

During a recent County Commission meeting on Nov. 19, my colleagues and I voted unanimously to conduct a market analysis on the Route 66 Visitors Center. I don’t have a problem supporting the market analysis. It will reinforce what those of us who support the project have known for a long time.

I have 54 years of experience living west of the river on the Southwest Mesa, and I know firsthand what community amenities exist and do not exist in that quadrant of the city and county, and I assure you that I do not need a market analysis to tell me that.

Furthermore, since the Albuquerque Journal is so sure that we’re putting the cart before the horse, may I ask if any of the editorial board members live on the Southwest Mesa? Has any of them ever visited our neighborhood?

Growth on the west side of the Rio Grande has been outpacing services and facilities for years. The good news is that the Southwest Mesa community is now in a position to guide the development of this project and help foster new economic opportunities – the same kind of economic opportunities that already exist on a much broader scale – east of the river.

The proposed Route 66 Visitors Center is a proactive and multifaceted manifestation of one of the most unique attractions in New Mexico – the Mother Road, the legendary Route 66 that links Chicago to Los Angeles and passes right through the heart of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County.

Needless to say, the Albuquerque Journal editorial did not provide a complete picture of what the Route 66 proposal entails. The proposed Route 66 Visitors Center, as designed, will appeal to locals and visitors alike. Here are some additional features the Journal editorial didn’t tell you about:

• Lowriders will be on display in the museum

• Route 66 sign graveyard

• New Mexico Music Hall of Fame

• Amphitheater

• Limited RV overnight parking

• Banquet and meeting space

• Onsite commercial kitchen to cater events and meetings

• New Bernalillo County fire station to better serve the surrounding area

The proposed Route 66 Visitors Center has the potential to provide an economic boost to the whole community. When drivers venture off Interstate 40 to enjoy the visitors center, the idea is to keep tourists traveling east on Central, stopping to have fun and spend money at attractions such as Old Town, the ABQ BioPark Aquarium and museums.

This project is a win-win investment for the city of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County. Let’s keep working to make it a reality.

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