Wireless connections, a theater and other amenities will be available for visitors at center.
Construction began last week on a new $7.4 million welcome center at Glenrio, about a half mile west of the New Mexico-Texas border on I-40.
At a groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday, March 21, state transportation and tourism officials unveiled plans for a hacienda-style center which will include a theater, wireless Internet service, courtyard, parking for about 150 vehicles and semis and showcase power generated from a renewable energy source.
“We can take a lot of pride in what we are doing here today,” said Johnny Cope, chairman of the state’s Department of Transportation Commission. “Twenty percent of the energy will be powered by wind turbines.”
The new visitor information centerwill also provide information about attractions in the area and throughout the state resulting in longer overnight stays and increased visitor spending, said Michael Cerletti, New Mexico’s Secretary of Tourism.
The Glenrio center and rest area is one of the busiest in the state with 370,000 logged visitors in 2006, Cerletti said.
“There’s probably about 200,000 visitors that go unlogged,” said Ernest Archuleta, director of DOT’s Highway Operations. “The new center will be able to accommodate one million visitors per year.”
Officials said that by combining efforts of the tourism and transportation departments that they were able to create a state-of-the-art information and visitor welcoming center.
The 8,500-square-foot center, which is on a 30-acre site, will provide parking for 53 semis and 95 cars, a corral for livestock, a pet area and walking path.
By comparison, the original center, built as a rest area and later converted to a welcoming center, provided space for about 42 cars and 26 commercial trucks and motor homes.
Glenrio is one of two centers to be built in the state this year. Each is to feature its own distinctive, but similar design. For example, the center at Glenrio will feature power production from wind turbines, while the $7.4 million center at Manuelito near Gallup on I-40 will have solar power.
Architect John Barton of Santa Fe said Glenrio will have four wind turbines, each about 60 feet high.
Global Structures and Montoya Construction, both of Albuquerque, are contractors on the Glenrio project.
Construction is expected to be complete in nine months.
In the meantime, the Glenrio’s welcoming operations, staffed by the Department of Tourism, have been moved to San Jon’s City Hall.