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Simpson County welcome center open to visitors; Kentucky prepares for tourism to safely resume

Gov. Andy Beshear has announced the official grand opening of a new welcome center near Franklin at the Kentucky-Tennessee state line.

In response to COVID-19, federal and state public health officials have advised limited travel throughout the nation to help slow the spread of the virus. As the commonwealth continues to wage its battle against the virus, state officials have remained committed to ensuring travel and tourism resume safely.

As public health officials evaluate a safe return to leisure travel, this new welcome center stands ready to greet those wandering north into Kentucky from Tennessee. Located at the zero mile marker in Simpson County off I-65, the center is situated near a major artery for commercial traffic and others traveling north through the Bluegrass State.

“As we continue our historic battle against this global health pandemic, our administration is committed to ensuring travel around the commonwealth can safely resume,” said Gov. Beshear. “As travel advisories are lifted and we all begin to move more freely, this new facility will provide the more than 44,000 vehicles per day that cross into the south central portion of Kentucky a safe and welcoming place to take a break.”

Construction of the new facility is a joint effort between the Transportation Cabinet, the Finance and Administration Cabinet, and the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet. The Finance Cabinet oversaw the construction of the new facility, while Transportation will manage the day-to-day operations, and Tourism employees will provide staffing for the center.

The new welcome center is a Federal style building featuring traditional red brick complemented with stone trim. Expansive front porches with comfortable bench seating and rocking chairs set ready to welcome road-weary travelers.

“While the architecture is impressive and reminiscent of many of the finer homes scattered across the Bluegrass, this modern facility was constructed with energy efficiency and ease of maintenance first in mind,” said Finance and Administration Cabinet Secretary Holly M. Johnson.

The newly designed center is ADA compliant and features expanded restroom capacity, including the option of family-friendly facilities favored by those traveling with small children. Visitors will find a variety of vending options at the new center as well as ecofriendly drinking fountains designed to accommodate refillable water bottles.

“This welcome center is more than bricks and mortar. It’s an opportunity for us, as Kentuckians, to make a good first impression on many of those who will be traveling north into our state on I-65,” Transportation Cabinet Secretary Jim Gray said.

Kentucky tourism serves as a major economic impactor for communities in all 120 counties. The Simpson County welcome center will serve as a gateway to popular tourism destinations including Kentucky Downs, the National Corvette Museum, Mammoth Cave National Park, and many, more travel experiences unique to south central Kentucky.

“With the end of the pandemic now in sight, there is hope of new beginnings for Kentucky’s travel and tourism industry,” said Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet Secretary Mike Berry. “Throughout this pandemic, Kentucky has been laser focused on ensuring that we are ready to welcome visitors back to the commonwealth once travel can safely resume across the nation.”

The new Simpson County welcome center replaces a 1974 facility that was in need of major upgrades and costly repairs. The center closed in January 2020 for demolition and construction of the new facility, which includes enhanced safety features, high-mast lighting and expanded commercial parking. The center is expected to welcome nearly 60,000-70,000 visitors annually.

Due to the escalation of COVID-19 cases throughout the commonwealth, travelers are encouraged to follow all public health safety guidelines including Red Zone Reduction Recommendations.

For a list of welcome centers in Kentucky, visit kentuckytourism.com.

Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet

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