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American Indian Cultural Center and Museum funding still lacking

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It's officially been in the works since 1994 and has been under construction since 2006. Now, the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum is staring at a possible funding shortage that could slow, if not halt, the project's momentum.

In late 2002, Congress approved an authorization of up to $33 million for the construction of the then cultural center. Now, more than five years later, the project has yet to see any of that money.

Work on the 125 thousand square foot cultural center and museum along the Oklahoma River is well underway.

"There's a tremendous amount of concrete in the ground, reinforced steel and site utilities," Chris Pribil of Centennial Builders said. "There was a lot of earthwork done out here."

Phase one of the project should be complete by the end of next summer. The exact date of completion for the remaining phases is unknown.

"It's hard to say. It really is driven by the funding for a project. Our project is a $150 million project; we're a third of the way there."

But project officials acknowledge, they can't bid out the remaining construction phases, much less set an opening date for the facility, until they can indentify remaining funds.

"As all states know, and as Oklahomans know, realizing appropriations on a federal level can be a challenge," Gena Howard with the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum said.

Officials say they're still hopeful the federal government will come through with the $33 million it once authorized, but they say they need a commitment, which is why they plan to ask state lawmakers this session for a $45 million capital appropriation.

"We need an additional $100 million for the project, and we're only requesting $45 million," Howard said. "And we'll continue to work with our private citizens of Oklahoma, the tribes, the federal delegation and with the city to understand the remainder funding capacity for this project."

Project officials say if they can get an appropriation of at least $25 million, they should be able to keep construction going seamlessly. But, they say $45 million will make it much easier for them to leverage the rest of the funding.

An official in Speaker of the House Lance Cargill's office says he is looking at some different funding possibilities to support the Cultural Center in the upcoming session.

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