KINGMAN - The Powerhouse Visitor Center celebrated its 100th anniversary earlier this month, and the U.S. Department of Transportation has presented it with a generous birthday present - nearly a quarter-million dollars for renovation work.
The Federal Highway Administration has agreed to fund $220,241 of a $275,000 project to renovate and reorganize Kingman's most famous centenarian, with the remainder of the funds coming from the Economic Tourism and Development Commission and the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona, which includes proceeds from the last two Fun Runs.
"The Powerhouse is really in need of being reorganized - the functions are there, but the flow is not," said Sharlene Fouser, the Byway Leader for the Route 66 Association and the person in charge of originally submitting the grant proposal in February. "The idea behind it was to make it more inviting for visitors to come in and get the information they need."
The project, which is being designed and administered by Thayer Design out of Madison Heights, Va., would make major changes and additions to both the interior and exterior of the Powerhouse.
These changes include moving the visitors' service desk to the front doors away from the corner it currently occupies, expanding the Powerhouse's literature racks, adding a 24-hour information kiosk outside, and constructing an exterior shaded canopy and rest area, among others.
"They're looking at redoing the signage, both interior and exterior - banners, directional signage," said Rob Owen, Kingman's Public Works director.
"They're looking at new display units for local businesses, tour information, all that kind of stuff. The whole purpose of the grant is to improve the visitor experience."
The improvements will also add a café/rest area to the Powerhouse complete with seating and vending machines for tourists, as well as new countertops and desktops. Museum displays will also be added or retooled to focus more on Kingman's heritage, as well as its relationship with historic Route 66.
Owen said the renovations could start in as little as six months, provided no additional grant requirements are put in place.
"We've got Thayer Design working on a phasing plan to break out different portions of this work, prioritize it and put it in order, and then we'll start working on some of these projects," he said.
He anticipated the project would last through "a couple funding cycles," meaning it would conclude some time in Fiscal Year 2011.