After years of planning and fundraising, and countless hours of hard work by many individuals, the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum has reached a crossroads. In the next few days, the Legislature will ultimately determine whether this multi-million dollar cultural project will be completed. This is, as they say, where the rubber meets the road.
The AICCM recently announced that it has raised $40 million in contributions from the Oklahoma community. The donations are from private citizens, businesses, tribes and nonprofits across the state — as well as the city of Oklahoma City. The amount raised speaks strongly to public opinion. Oklahomans want this center completed.
We've reached a point where there are no more options. We either finish what we started, or risk seeing our investment begin to deteriorate due to lack of continued funds, and with it the dream of this world-class facility.
Now's the time for the state to step up and finish the job!
The AICCM's completion is contingent on the state providing $40 million in matching funds. The center sits half completed at the junction of Interstates 35 and 40. What could be a cultural beacon for our state is just a shell of what it was intended to be. More than 409,000 cars pass it daily; many of those are visitors traveling through our state. We're at risk of missing the opportunity to share what makes Oklahoma's heritage so unique. These are visitors who could learn about the traditions that are so deeply rooted in our history, and who would spend money and support jobs in our community.
Over the years, Oklahoma's cultural tourism industry has grown tremendously. Visitors are fascinated by our American Indian culture. Experts predict this museum will generate $3.8 billion in economic impact over the first 20 years. In fact, visitors interested in cultural and heritage tourism have been shown to stay longer and spend more in a community. This center will attract these tourists to our state.
Other benefits would reach far beyond economics. The AICCM would be more than just another tourist attraction; it would be a tribute to our cultural history. It would touch every corner of this state by providing a hub for American Indian culture and a place where generations can touch the past and gain understanding. Oklahoma is home to 39 tribes. No other state can claim a heritage so rich and diverse.
The AICCM will be something that unites us as a state and brings pride to all who visit. The return on investment, between economic impact and cultural richness, may be well above the $40 million investment we are asking the Legislature to make. Now is the time to take action. Contact your legislator and express support for completion and funding of the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum.
Edwards is chairman of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber.