OKLAHOMA CITY – There is new hope for an Indian cultural center near downtown Oklahoma City.
The 125,000 square foot facility is only halfway done and has been sitting untouched for about a year and a half.
That’s when the money ran out on the project and a bill for a $40 million bond issue to fund the facility failed in the state legislature.
You’ve probably seen the big mound of dirt and tall white archway just southeast of downtown along the Oklahoma River.
It’s all part of the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum.
Senator Kyle Loveless has been working to push through this project that falls in his district.
He has a new bill that will raise the $40 million needed through a diversion of the internet sales tax.
He says it boils down to the cost of a Big Mac per Oklahoma family.
“In my mind, when you balance it out of a $4 billion investment that will generate economic development all across Oklahoma and jobs, for a big mac. That’s the way I look at it,” Sen. Loveless said.
Blake Wade is the center’s executive director.
He was brought on board 2 years ago to secure $40 million in private funding.
That money’s ready to go as soon as the state votes on its part to match that $40 million.
“We really are ready to go whenever we do get the funds,” Wade said. “156,000 cars a day go by this site, I-35 and 40. Can you imagine when they start stopping and learning about our American Indians? We now call this a destination spot.”
Senator Loveless said he feels confident he has the votes secured to get the bill passed this next legislative session that starts in February.
He said the facility will be a Smithsonian-quality museum that will draw visitors from all over, telling the unique story of the 39 Oklahoma tribes.
Senator Loveless and Wade both say all 39 tribes are on board with the project and have donated and provided their input into the facility.
Critics said it has simply taken too long to complete the project that has been in the works for about 15 years and they’re concerned about oversight of the money that has already been spent.
But Wade said they had a 10-year audit done and that every penny is accounted for.
Senator Loveless said he feels it would be fiscally irresponsible for the state to turn its back on the project now.