SULPHUR, Okla. – A ground breaking ceremony Thursday, July 12 marked another milestone in economic development in the Sulphur area.
Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby was joined by tribal officials, local officials and dozens of area residents to mark the beginning of construction of the new Chickasaw Nation Visitor Center at the intersection of S.H. 7 and U.S. 177.
Gov. Anoatubby said the location and design of the center were chosen to serve a wide range of visitors to the area, highlight local attractions and communicate the Chickasaw Nation’s connection to the area.
“This Visitor Center is part of our long-range plan to promote tourism in this area,” said Gov. Anoatubby. “This will be an excellent venue to welcome guests to the area and encourage them to discover the natural beauty, history and hospitality of Chickasaw Country. Our connection with the land and the people of the Sulphur area pre-dates statehood and we want to share that story with everyone.”
The new center, which will be adjacent to the Artesian Hotel currently under construction, will serve as a gateway to the Chickasaw National Recreation Area.
Constructed of native stone, copper and glass, the split-level visitor center will include an information desk, orientation theatre, a multi- purpose gallery, restrooms and a gift shop on the street level.
Office space will be located on the lower level.
The interior of the building will feature natural slate flooring and rich wood ceilings. A cascading water feature will be integrated into the building’s exterior design.
The building is designed to be eco-friendly by Oklahoma architectural firm Frankfurt-Short-Bruza Associates.
The project has been awarded LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. The LEED rating-system certifications are awarded to projects based on performance and energy usage, sustainable features, innovative design and other green criteria.
Once complete, the visitor center will provide information and tell the story of Chickasaw National Recreation Area, the only national park established at the request of a Native American tribe, the Chickasaws.
Expected completion date for the visitor center is 2013.
According to Gov. Anoatubby, the visitor center will complement the tribe’s on-going efforts to promote tourism in the area.
“We believe our continuing investment in this area will benefit the state and local economy far into the future,” said Gov. Anoatubby.
Investments include the Artesian Hotel and the Chickasaw Cultural Center. More than 150,000 people have visited the Chickasaw Cultural Center since it opened in July 2010.
The Chickasaw Nation also has plans for a retail center, pocket park and casino in Sulphur.
Other projects planned for the area include a Bedre’ Chocolate factory and a Chickasaw Welcome Center, both located on Interstate 35 near exit 55.
More than 3 million people visit Murray County each year. Other attractions in the area include Turner Falls, Arbuckle Wilderness and Cross Bar Ranch all-terrain vehicle trails.