BAXTER SPRINGS — After months of preparation, the Decades of Wheels automotive museum on historic Route 66 in Baxter Springs is open for business following a ribbon cutting ceremony on Saturday.
“We’re very fortunate to have them here,” said Baxter Springs Mayor Randall Trease at the ribbon cutting. “If you’ll look behind us here, if you looked at this block before they came into town, this block, most of the stores were empty, the stores that were there needed a lot of work.”
Others who attended the Decades of Wheels grand opening similarly spoke about the benefits the museum and associated amenities are bringing to Baxter Springs.
“The revitalization of the downtown area is just amazing, you know, it’s that small town feel and nostalgia all rolled into one thing, so it’s pretty neat,” said Jeremy Martin of Joplin, who surprised his three children with a trip to the museum grand opening.
Ross Davis, technology director for the Baxter Springs school district, who works across the street from Decades of Wheels and watched as work on the project moved forward over the past year, said he planned to check out the museum later in the day with his wife and son.
“It’s nice to have an attraction in Baxter Springs where people will come from out of town to see what’s going on,” Davis said, “and my understanding is there’s enough cars here that even locals can visit every couple of months for a year and probably not see the same car twice, so that’s going to be exciting.”
Besides a car museum, other attractions affiliated with Decades of Wheels include a bed and breakfast called the Little Brick Inn, and two eateries, Rita’s Roost and Cafe on the Route. The last element of Decades of Wheels, which has yet to open, is the Spin Out Arcade.
When the Spin Out opens, however, it will be a major attraction. The closest arcade to rival it in size once it’s completed, according to Dwight Tannehill, director of promotions for Decades of Wheels, will be in Kansas City.
“The way we’ve structured it is, instead of having to plug quarters in all day long, you only pay one price to go in and play whatever’s there and for as long as you like. There’s not a time limit on it,” said Tannehill, who also spoke about the effort that has gone into creating Decades of Wheels.
“This is a dream, and it’s a dream come true,” he said. “We have in excess of 300 cars to bring to the museum and each one has its own unique story.”
The car collection at Decades of Wheels includes famous vehicles visitors might recognize from major Hollywood movies, such as a Batmobile and Ghostbusters car. There are also many classic cars and rare newer models, however, for more serious automotive enthusiasts.
“I was impressed by the paint jobs of the cars and how they’ve really done the detail work to really make it a nice event,” said Joe Schoeberl, a retired judge from Joplin, who said he was particularly interested in some of the classic cars from the 1970s on display at the museum.
“Mustangs, the Barracuda, the Firebird, the Camaro, you couldn’t choose one or two, you’d have to have four or five,” Schoeberl said.
Schoeberl’s nephew Tyler Campbell, who will start 8th grade in the fall, was also impressed by some of the cars in the museum’s collection.
“One of my favorite cars in there was the Firebird, and then the second was the Lamborghini,” Campbell said. “I’d definitely come back if they have new cars and they have new stuff there.”
The Decades of Wheels museum can hold about 30 cars out of its total collection at one time. Admission is $5. In addition to the museum itself, other attractions at the Saturday grand opening included guided tours of the Little Brick Inn bed and breakfast, which has more than two dozen rooms, each decorated with a slightly different theme, along with two conference rooms that can be booked for events.
Bob Gamel, general manager of Decades of Wheels, who was leading tours of the Little Brick Inn on Saturday, acknowledged that getting Decades of Wheels up and running has “been a work in progress” but that most hurdles have now been overcome in the huge project to renovate a whole city block.
“To my knowledge, we have no bumps in the road ahead of us,” Gamel said.
While Decades of Wheels will now be open every day of the week except Mondays following Saturday’s ribbon cutting, a bigger event to celebrate the completion of most aspects of the project, with the exception of the arcade, is planned for later this month.
On June 21 and 22, Decades of Wheels will host an event featuring Dave “Daddy Dave” Comstock from the Discovery Channel show Street Outlaws, as well as a performance by the band Doc Fell & Co. There will also be bounce houses, chicken races, and a greased pig competition, among other activities. Call (620) 304-2222 or visit decadesofwheels.com for more information.