Zoie Clift, travel writer
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
Travelers can now visit a new welcome center in Texarkana. Arkansas Welcome Center Red River recently underwent a $2.5 million upgrade. As part of this project, a completely new building was built north of the old center. The address is still the same at 12555 N State Line Avenue.
“We opened the new center on June 19 and the old center was torn down the next day,” said Sheila Nichols, manager of the Arkansas Welcome Center Red River.
“In my opinion the most important role that welcome centers play in the state is the first impression we make on our visitors,” she said. “We are the frontline greeters to many who are visiting our state for the first time.”
Welcome center staff assist visitors with attractions, lodging, and dining information in the area they are planning to stop in or visit.
“The lobby is the main feature of the new center,” Nichols added. “The old center was about one-fourth the size of the new one and didn’t have the room in the lobby to showcase our hundreds of brochures and literature from all over the state. A lot of our regular visitors are commenting on how much easier it is to find brochures and literature compared to the old center. They are now browsing through the brochures whereas before they barely had enough room to turn around.”
Nichols noted that some of their regular visitors who have watched as the new center was being constructed are now stopping in just to see what everything looks like.
According to Nichols, the new center is about half the size of the Texarkana Welcome Center on I-30. “But we also do not have the high volume of traffic and visitors that they do there,” she said. “This center is located exactly on the state line. Northbound traffic is in Arkansas and southbound traffic is in Texas. We are also located on the county line. The center is in Miller County but just a few yards north across the bridge of the Red River is Little River County. The actual county and state line are both in the middle of the Red River.”
A grand opening for the new center has been set for September 18. As part of the lineup the Ashdown High School Band will play the national anthem and a color guard will also be there. There will be speeches from several dignitaries and a ribbon cutting. Joe David Rice, tourism director for the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, will be there along with Scott Bennett, director of the Arkansas Department of Transportation. There will also be refreshments and entertainment.
Nichols encouraged people to visit the new center.
“Anyone traveling through this part of the state should stop in and say hello and get a free cup of coffee,” she said. “You will be greeted with a smile.”
Thirteen Welcome Centers are located at various points of entry to the state. An additional location can be found in Little Rock, which serves as a centrally-located center for visitors. For more information on Welcome Centers across the state, visit http://www.Arkansas.com/travel-tools/welcome-centers.