Springfield will break ground on a new park to celebrate one of the most important parts of the city’s legacy.   City officials will break ground for a roadside park celebrating Springfield as the birthplace of the Mother Road, Route 66.

The groundbreaking will take place at 10 a.m., Thursday at the park's future site on College Street, between Fort and Broadway avenues.  Parking will be available on site and on the streets adjacent to the site.

The decision to name the new Chicago to Los Angeles highway as Route 66 was made at the Colonial Hotel in Springfield in 1926.  Route 66 meandered across Springfield along Kearney Street, Glenstone Avenue and St. Louis Street, through the Public Square (now Park Central Square) to College, then headed west along what is now Chestnut Expressway.

Plans for the Birthplace of Route 66 Roadside Park include incorporating memories of local Route 66 landmarks, sculptures, a filling station replica, a motor court sign replica and a history plaza.  The first phase of the park will be complete by August and will include the replica of the Red’s Giant Hamburg sign; park driveway and parallel parking; and landscaping and sidewalk improvements along College.

The estimated cost for the Birthplace of Route 66 Roadside Park is about $1 million, according to Director of Planning Ralph Rognstad.

"We hope to make Springfield THE stop along the famed, historic byway," said City Manager Greg Burris.

While the City will provide funding to implement certain infrastructure improvements along the College Street stretch of Historic Route 66 between Grant Avenue and Kansas Expressway, it must leverage its investment in the project with private donations and other sources of funding.  A larger plan to revitalize Historic Route 66 through other parts of Springfield could roll out in phases, as the City gauges interest and potential funding. 

The City raised more than $15,000 to build a replica of the Red's Giant Hamburg sign through local crowd funding company Crowdit.com.

Birthplace of Route 66 Roadside Park renderings can be viewed here.