American Indian Cultural Center construction may hit snag

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (AP) 4-08

Construction of the $150 million American Indian Cultural Center may have hit a roadblock after the Oklahoma House failed to consider a bill that would provide $30 million in funding for the project.

A handful of lawmakers toured the 300-acre construction site, which will include a museum, welcome center and private development.

To avoid a lapse in construction, the project needs $45 million from the state this legislative session, said Gena Timberman, executive director of the Native American Cultural and Education Authority, which is overseeing the project.

In 1994, the Legislature created the Native American Cultural and Education Authority to design and establish the cultural center. Officials chose an area off Eastern Avenue, at the junction of Interstates 35 and 40 along the Oklahoma River.

The center would feature the culture of American Indian tribes in the United States, including the tribes based in Oklahoma.

The design includes an elevated walkway that will take visitors nearly 60 feet above the ground. The West Passage tunnel, which connects the cultural center to recreation fields to the west, has also been completed, said Chris Pribil, construction manager on the project.

“We’re creating an institution from the ground up,” Timberman said. “We want this to be a credible world-class facility with an international draw.”

According to a 2003 economic impact study by Applied Economics, the total economic benefit of the American Indian Cultural Center to the state economy over 20 years could reach $2.6 billion. The annual impact could be as much as $128.8 million, the study found.

As much as $71.1 million in direct visitor spending could be generated over a 20-year period in local sales and hotel tax revenues, according to the study.

Construction jobs created while building the cultural center also could reach 920, the study said.