Anyone who's seen the Disney Pixar animated film, "Cars," knows what happened to little towns on the Mother Road, Route 66, when the interstate system was constructed in the second half of the last century. The towns, often decorated with bright neon signs and filled with odd attractions, soon dried up and became shadows of their former selves.
But, thanks to a metro-area businessman, the little town of Arcadia, located on the Mother Road, is about to get some help. Aubrey McClendon, best known as the chief executive officer of Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy, has financed the development of a piece of land he owns in Arcadia.
Rand Elliott, principal of Elliott + Associates Architects, is overseeing the construction of POPS, a unique attraction that has garnered tourist interest well ahead of its anticipated completion date.
"It will be the world's coolest gas station, but there's a lot more to it than that," Elliott said. "Travelers will have the opportunity to fuel up, there'll be a cool café and a small store where they can get beer, pop and other things for a day at Arcadia Lake." The store will also carry unique Mother Road memorabilia.
POPS will consist of a 5,000 square foot store and café, plus the fueling canopy with Route 66 on the north side of the building. "You'll walk under a canopy, into the building," said Elliott, "then you can go out onto the south patio where there'll be an orchard of sixty-six Oklahoma Redbud trees."
POPS is designed to capture the excitement of the Mother Road while providing a destination for food and a private garden where travelers can enjoy some relaxing serenity.
"We think people will enjoy visiting the garden and soaking in the Deep Fork Valley peace and quiet," Elliott said. "After all, the city's name, Arcadia, means 'land of peace and tranquility.'"
The stone walls of the store are designed to look as if they are emerging out of the earth. "They are red stone walls that create two sides of the outdoor garden and the building," said Elliott. "A large steel structure creates a 100-foot cantilevered canopy above the gas pumps. The stone work is a connection to the agrarian qualities of the Deep Fork Valley, while the steel represents the future and the opportunities as we look forward."
Designed as a landmark, POPS features what Elliott believes to be "the world's largest pop bottle" outside. The 66-foot-tall object is an abstract, artistic interpretation of the soda bottle shape.
"It even has a straw coming out of it," said Elliott. "There's a series of rings, with LED lighting in each ring. It will be a glowing object in the landscape of Arcadia."
When it's finished, POPS will display 12,000 bottles of pop in the building. "The north and south sides are glass," said Elliott. "In those windows are shelves, and each wall of shelves will hold 6,000 bottles. When the sun's coming through, it will make each bottle of pop glow and show the colorful varieties."
The facility also will feature a soda fountain where customers can get a handmade malt or phosphate. The café will seat sixty-four people.
"We think it will become a destination, someplace you'll take your family, your girlfriend, or your parents. You can go to POPS and have a fabulous lunch, ranging from a bison burger to a chicken pesto sandwich."
McClendon, owner of the property, also hopes POPS will become an exciting destination spot. "We hope it will entice people to Route 66 from Edmond and Oklahoma City and they'll see what a neat town Arcadia is. We wanted to create a novelty along Route 66."
"This is a very cool building and a perfect addition in Arcadia to complement the Round Barn," said Elliott. "Too often, people think of Route 66 as something in the past. POPS is a tribute to the idea that Route 66 is alive and growing. POPS is focused on looking into the future."
POPS plans to be open for business in June 2007