The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

March 26, 2013

$14.6 million awarded to repair deteriorating Vinita Service Plaza

By Andy Ostmeyer
Globe Metro Editor

VINITA, Okla. — In an effort to put the state’s best face forward, the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority has announced plans to spend $14.6 million to overhaul and rebuild the rundown Vinita Service Plaza that spans Interstate 44.

OTA spokesperson Jack Damrill said there are few travel plazas like it in the United States — he only knows of three others — and it is the first place many westbound travelers stop when entering Oklahoma, so it is the first impression they get of the state.

“It is very popular,” he said of the plaza, but did not have any visitation numbers for the site.

However, he acknowledged the building has deteriorated in recent years and was in a state of disrepair. It was built in 1957 and served as a restaurant called the Glass House before it was taken over by McDonalds many years later.

“We were getting complaints for obvious reasons,” Damrill said today. “It has been updated every now and then but it has not been renovated.”

He said $10.6 million will be used to tear down the entire structure, except for the basic bridge and the arches.

“We are going to completely tear down the wings and rebuild those,” he said. Glass windows that allow visitors to look out over the interstate will be replaced with new energy-efficient windows.

The remaining money will be used for such things as parking lot improvements and new lighting.

The contract was awarded to Timberlake Construction of Oklahoma City.

Damrill said travelers will not have a place to stop on the interstate for the year that the renovation takes place, and they will need to exit the turnpike at one of the adjacent communities in order to get food, fuel and take restroom breaks.

The Vinita Travel Plaza over the Will Rogers Turnpike will remain a McDonald’s restaurant and a Subway also will open inside the building. Kum and Go will operate convenience stories on either side of the restaurant.