When Steve McAvoy was tasked with reimagining Indiana’s 10 interstate welcome centers, he ventured to Texas for research.

“That’s where I learned about theme-based, or regional-based, projects,” said McAvoy, the statewide facilities director for the Indiana Department of Transportation.

Centerville’s welcome center, at the 143 mile marker of westbound Interstate 70, will represent Indiana’s basketball tradition. INDOT conducted a May 16 public hearing at Centerville Senior High School to share details about the $42 million project that’s part of a 10-year, $600 million overall state commitment.

Designers drew inspiration from gymnasiums such as Lebanon’s Memory Hall, Butler University’s Hinkle Fieldhouse and Indianapolis’ Gainbridge Fieldhouse, then incorporated arches, exposed structure, masonry and natural wood into the welcome center’s design.

The 12,000-square-foot building, which has half a basketball court, will include interactive activities for visitors to experience Indiana’s passion for basketball. The building is the only welcome center utilizing geothermal energy. Outside amenities include two picnic shelters, a playground, an adult fitness area, a dog park and a walking trail through 10 acres of woods INDOT acquired. 

Parking for 156 trucks remains, with a separate restroom facility for truckers. Car parking will be reduced from 97 to 54, including four handicapped spaces. Improved lighting will reduce the facility’s glow.

The draft design plans and environmental report are available online at on.in.gov/Centerville-Rest-Area, and a hard copy is available at Morrisson-Reeves Library, 80 N. Sixth St., Richmond.

McAvoy said other welcome center themes include farming with a red barn, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Abraham Lincoln with a log cabin, covered bridges, a historic train station and World War II airplane production with a hangar.

“They’re very fun,” McAvoy said about developing the themed sites.

Bradley Wood, who lives adjacent to the welcome center on Sowers Road, was among a handful of residents attending the public hearing. Wood raises sheep and chickens, and he expressed environmental concerns about wetlands, trees and the water table. He waters his animals with a spring-fed pond and was assured construction will not impact the water source.

“I’m still concerned that it may be an issue,” Wood said about the water. “I am happy that the lights will be lower and less light pollution.”

He also was concerned with the cost of replacing a building that dates only to 2010.

“Honestly, even though it’s federally funded, it seems like $42 million is just a complete waste of taxpayer money in general,” Wood said.

Mindy Harms stumbled upon the public hearing because of basketball practice at the school. She lives along Means Road, farther east of the welcome center than Wood. Harms wondered if there would be enough parking spaces, and she was concerned about security. The facility will have a 4-foot-high, chain-link fence around the entire property, but Harms thought a 6-foot fence might better keep people on the welcome center property.

Overall, though, she supports the plans.

“I’m good with it,” Harms said. “I think we need nice stuff.”

INDOT will accept public comments about the project through May 31. Comments may be submitted online from on.in.gov/Centerville-Rest-Area; mailed to Imtiyaz Dalal, Janssen & Spaans Engineering, 9120 Harrison Park Court, Indianapolis, IN 46216; emailed to idalal@jsengr.com; mailed to Steve McAvoy, INDOT Statewide Facilities Director, 100 North Senate Avenue, IGCN, Room N758-FM, Indianapolis, IN 46204 or emailed to smcavoy@indot.in.gov.

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A version of this article appeared in the May 22 2024 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Mike Emery is a reporter and layout editor for the Western Wayne News.