Welcome Center opens in Lake Lure
Doors were open at the new Welcome Center in Lake Lure Thursday morning as the Tourism Development Authority hosted an official grand opening.
Eleven months after the $220,000 renovation project began at the former Hickory Nut Gorge Chamber of Commerce/TDA office, more than 100 guests attended the official ceremony.
"It has been a harried and fast paced 11 months," Michelle Whitaker, TDA's executive director, told the visitors and elected officials. "It took more than a village" to bring the project to completion, Whitaker said.
"We wanted this to be a real immersive experience," Whitaker said. "This is a half-million dollar project and we had less than half that." "If it is beautiful, it will be only as beautiful as what we reflect it, the beauty of the place where we live and work," Whitaker said.
Vic Knight, the center's project manager from Knight Strategies, said the task for the renovation project was to " reflect the rich culture and history" of Rutherford County and to reflect the tourism assets.
He said during the process Tom Elfers, ornamentalist, "stole the show" with his custom-built metal arches at the entrance, reflective of the metal tourism branding in the county.
Everything outside and inside the center reflects the attractions and amenities offered in Rutherford County and the municipalities.
The exterior features a courtyard, outdoor space for demonstrations and small events; rain barrels, to collect water for plants; tractor seats — a nod to local food and farms; information boards, swings and a window display.
An outdoor display will feature Grady the Groundhog from Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park and ziplining on a ridge-to-ridge zipline course, reflective of the courses in the area.
The interior was designed to give visitors a feeling for the lodging properties in the area. The displays throughout the facility share the movie history of the county; there is a map room and a wagon wheel & toy train, symbolic of the stagecoach stops in the county and the county's railraod history.
The facility's ceiling represents the old mercantile buildings, specifically in downtown areas such as Washburn's General Store in Bostic.
The brick arches are reminders of the old mills and industrial history of manufacturing days.
In addition to Knight Strategies, other contractors recognized were Daryl Sims, Sims Lance Johnson, Harris Custom Cabinetry, Tom Elfers, Steve Sane, The Awen Group, Lynn Padett, The McConnell Group and Jim Hendley, the train.
The center is located at 2932 Memorial Highway near the town marina. It will be managed by Adrienne Wallace, assistant director for visitor information.