Tribe operating Oklahoma Welcome Center in Tulsa
By STAFF REPORTS
TULSA, Okla. – The Oklahoma Welcome Center in east Tulsa on Interstate 44 officially began operating under the guidance of Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism on Aug. 1.
CN and Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department officials marked the partnership with a ceremony Aug. 1 at the welcome center, which is now called the Cherokee Nation Welcome Center. The facility is located at I-44 and 161st East Ave.
The 4,200-square foot center was in danger of being closed due to state budget cuts, but an agreement between the state and CN was reached, transferring daily operations to the tribe. The center will promote both Cherokee and Oklahoma tourist destinations in the area.
“This arrangement allows us to continue to be a good partner to the state of Oklahoma and to promote tourism in northeastern Oklahoma to travelers along I-44,” Molly Jarvis, vice president of Cultural Tourism at Cherokee Nation Entertainment, said. “We will continue to operate the facility as a welcome center for Oklahoma while using our guest service and tourism experience to promote the communities within Cherokee Nation’s 14-county jurisdiction.”
The welcome center will house an information desk, tourist destination information, maps, snacks and a gift shop featuring Oklahoma-related merchandise along with Cherokee art, jewelry and apparel. The tourism group will also use the center for office space for about 14 staff people.
“We are grateful to Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Entertainment for leading this effort to provide Oklahoma visitors with specialized materials, which showcase the tourism attractions in the Cherokee Nation as well as information about travel destinations statewide,” said OTRD Travel Promotion Director Sandy Pantlik. “Without this valued partnership, the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department was considering closure of this facility due to budget cuts.”
Pantlik said more than 1.3 million visitors stop at Oklahoma’s tourism information centers annually.
The center’s lease will be renewed on a yearly basis, and CNE is not paying OTRD for the lease but will be responsible for paying for the center’s operating costs.
The center is the second partnership between the CN and OTRD. In 2010, the CN began operating a state welcome center at the Kansas, Okla., exit just off the Cherokee Turnpike.
The CN Welcome Center in Tulsa is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. For additional information, call 918-384-5987.
Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism is now operating an east Tulsa welcome center formerly operated by the state. COURTESY PHOTO