“Indiana lives up to our destination as the Crossroads of America through our top-rated infrastructure and our commitment to getting Hoosiers and visitors to where they need to go,” said Gov. Holcomb. “Visitors passing through on I-65 will have a clean, safe and interactive experience.”
The new welcome center replaces the previous facility built in 1988, is ADA compliant and energy efficient. The design of the center is inspired by northwest Indiana landscapes and the wind power industry, represented through the building design resembling a wind turbine and blades, the dunes through three brick textures on the lower building section and the rolling roof, Lake Michigan through the upper blue glass, and the Kankakee River through the blue terrazzo flooring and custom restroom wall tile.
Travelers will have access to new amenities such as a dog park, children’s play area, adult recreation area, walking trails and pond. Commissioned art is featured on seven wind turbine blade tips displayed vertically in the pond and a full-sized blade (219′ long) displayed horizontally along the parking lot.
Also included are numerous interactive exhibits inside for visitors to enjoy, featuring the Meadow Lakes Wind Farm, Kankakee Sands, Indiana Dunes National Park, Purdue University astronauts, the northwest Indiana steel industry, Grand Kankakee Marsh, and monarch butterflies. A Fair Oaks Farm exhibit is currently in progress and will be installed at a later date.
The nearly $40 million construction contract also includes the reconstruction of the northbound rest area and was awarded to Hasse Construction in 2021. Fosse and Associates Architects and Janssen and Spaans Engineering designed the new facility. Both locations have increased parking, with 150 truck parking spots on the southbound side and 75 on the northbound side. Many regional businesses and firms took part in the construction of the new welcome center.
“Through its Rest Area and Welcome Center Improvement Plan, INDOT is committed to providing safe, relaxing environments where travelers can rest and recharge as they enter and drive through Indiana,” said INDOT Commissioner Mike Smith. “This has been an opportunity to work with state and local partners to provide a glimpse of all northwest Indiana has to offer in the ways of industry and tourism. We appreciate the hard work of the project team who helped make the new welcome center come to life, and we’re looking forward to the facilities yet to come.”
The statewide improvement plan includes more than $600 million in federal funding for improvements to 21 rest areas and welcome centers to be completed by the end of FY 2034. Pigeon Creek along I-69 southbound in Steuben County was the first welcome center to be reconstructed and opened to the public in October 2020. Clear Creek in Vigo County and Black River in Posey County are currently under construction and will have similar amenities to the Kankakee Welcome Center.