ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Getting a proposed visitor center off the ground is getting a lot more expensive for the city and county. The building has yet to go up, but that’s not the case for the price tag. Supporters of the visitor center say it will be a destination, but some wonder if it’s worth the cost.

It’s not your average visitor center.

“It would be Albuquerque’s premier destination for locals and tourists alike,” says City Councilor Klarissa Pena.

Back in 2016, Albuquerque city councilors and Bernalillo County commissioners announced a Route 66 Visitor Center on the far reaches of west Central was in the works.

“The vision is to create space for the community and its visitors to highlight our rich history and culture,” Pena says.

Pena says the facility will have a lowrider museum, a taproom, and drive-in movie area. “The idea of like, getting to relive some of the things that were very popular on Route 66, like diner experience or the drive-in movie theater, or I think the low rider culture is really interesting,” says Ashley Daniels.

When it was first announced, the visitor center was expected to cost a little under $3.5 million. Three years later, the budget has ballooned to $12.9 million.

“They met with community members and decided what they wanted and what they didn’t want. Some of the amenities, actually the space has grown probably about a quarter of the size,” Pena says.

The city, county and the state will all pitch in to cover the cost.

“Twelve-million dollars seems like an awful lot of money to spend when we have needs with our homeless population and out mentally ill population,” says Margaret Gates.

Not everyone is on board. City Councilor Trudy Jones says she’s concerned about using public money to fund the project.

“We’re playing with other people’s money. This is tax payer’s money. It’s not our money, and we have so many important and needy projects. Councilor Pena’s district is one of the neediest in the city,” says City Councilor Trudy Jones.

Jones says she doubts the visitor center’s proposed location on Nine Mile Hill will draw a large crowd.

“If it’s not going to generate what it’s supposed to generate, wouldn’t we be doing a community center for the area? Upgrading the parks? Wouldn’t we be doing things that people in the district could use?” Jones says.

There are a million dollars on the city’s November ballot for the visitor center. Councilor Pena says they hope to break ground next May.
So far, the city, county and state have set aside more than $7 million for the visitor center.