After decades along I-65, the future of Alabama's rest stop rocket is uncertain

Alabama Rest Stop Rocket
Posted at 4:47 PM, Jan 18, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-18 22:32:41-05

ARDMORE, Ala. (WTVF) — You don't exactly need the exit number to remember how to find Alabama's Welcome Center, located just over the line from Tennessee.

"Yes, it stands out. It jumps out at you," said Mark Bingham, a traveler from Indiana.

"Because we do look for it as we come this way," said Cathy Bingham, Mark's wife.

Especially, since there's a towering testament to space exploration parked right out front.

"I taught for years and we would bring kids down here. And the kids loved when we stopped here and looked at the rocket," said Cathy.

But after nearly 50 years of being pointed towards the heavens and pointing out where to stretch your legs, the iconic Saturn IB rocket's mission could be finally scrapped.

"Well, it’s a landmark. It’s been there for a long time. I’d hate to see them take it down — and not what — put anything up?" asked Cathy.

That's one of the scenarios being considered as the Alabama Welcome Center goes through an extensive remodel. In recent interviews, the Director of Tourism for the State of Alabama says either the rocket needs to be cleaned up or taken down. The rocket belongs to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville. Either the center or NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center will likely make the final decision.

Perhaps the last place you'd expect sympathy is from a direct competitor. But even the most passionate employee we could find, just over the line, at the Tennessee Welcome Center hates to see this piece of history come down.

"I can’t imagine going southbound and not seeing that rocket," said Mary Baggett, a Travel Assistant at Tennessee's Welcome Center. "When I’m coming back that’s what I’m looking for. I know I’m near home when I see that rocket. And I’d hate to see it go."

It's the type of exit that no one seems ready to take. "I kinda hope they keep it," said Mark Bingham.

"Ugh, that would be sad. That would be sad," said Cathy Bingham.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Space and Rocket Center says they will have more to say on the future of the rocket in the coming days.

NewsChannel 5 will update this story once there's more information.

Get NewsChannel 5 Now, wherever, whenever, always free.

Watch the live stream below, and download our apps on Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and more. Click here to learn more.