The newly anticipated tourist center has broken ground and is well on its way to becoming the ?vision? that the Arkansas State Highway Department and the Department of Tourism are working in collaboration to build. The welcome center is reported to be 3520 sq. feet located at the Intersection of 49 and 49 B. Fast Facts about Arkansas Welcome Centers: -The first center opened in June of 1967 in Bentonville -14 centers around the major access points of Arkansas -Over 800 visitors were welcomed at a welcome center last year -Provides more information on about 1100 attractions, restaurants, hotels and local events The mission of Arkansas Parks and Tourism is to present Arkansas in a positive was by assisting the traveling public in a knowledgeable manner and enhancing and extending their visits while maximizing the economic benefits to AR. Fast Fact: -23 million travelers spent 5 ? billion dollars in AR last year -59,000 tourism jobs were generated from these numbers What is required during employment: Take a test after 6-month employment And pass the national travel consultant certification test Customer service training CPR and first aid State orientation Why do people stop at welcome center? Clean restrooms Personal attention and assistance Free coffee Stop to get traffic and weather Stop for emergency assistance Phillips county Tourist Center was the first to provide coffee to visitors and tourists Travelers seeking organizations to help provide travelers aid What can the visitor center do for your business? -Advertise brochures, or business cards -hang posters for special events -Hand out coupons, free tickets or offers -Local artists or musician can entertain the travelers Who are the architects over the project? Joseph Rogers and John Ramsey Sr., architects of Science Applications International Corp. What will the new tourist center include? The new tourist center will include a family pavilion for large events, displays and museum cases, computer terminals for Internet access, a coffee bar and counter area, TV access and plenty of security. How large will the welcome center be? The facility is reported to be, in comparison of the old center, six times larger and will cover 3,520 sq. ft. It is anticipated that the project will double the visitation in the Helena area. Who owns the current welcome center? The Highway Dept. currently owns the center and the land that it is located on Fast Facts: -Study found out that the current center built today are built for 20 years of life; current center was built 34 years ago -6 centers have been replaced Tex-Arkansas, ft. smith, corning, Blytheville, Lake Village and Elderado - 7,139 cars stopped at the tourist center When is the center expected to be open? August of 2013 What will the new center look like and what will it include? The style chosen to reflect Helena was an architectural informal Italianate style that details a plaza, 5 picnic pavilions and a family size pavilion on the grounds, 23 car parking spaces, RV and bus parking and dock with display cases, coffee bar, flat screen TVs, internet access and plenty of security. The Helena-West Helena Welcome Center was let to contract in February 2012 to C & M Builders, Inc. of Southaven, Mississippi. It will be the eighth new center to open since 2004. The program to rebuild the Welcome Centers began in 2003. Fast Facts: A 1997 study of the state?s Welcome Centers revealed that they were built for a 20-year life, but the average age was 23 years. Beginning with construction of new Welcome Centers in 2003, the facilities are now called Arkansas Welcome Centers ? formerly Tourist Information Centers.