LAWTON Okla_ The Lawton Marketplace is officially open for business, and shoppers in town are excited.
Kirkland's opened their doors earlier this week, and Academy Sports and Outdoors officially opened Friday. More stores will open soon. With the booming businesses come massive crowds, which is something Lawton isn't exactly used to.
Academy's parking was full most of the day Friday. Traffic was heavy, but not overwhelming. That's thanks to the planning the city has put into this project for over a year.
Shoppers have been waiting for this day for nearly a year.
"I usually have to go to Wichita Falls to shop," one Lawton citizen said. "Now I just walk almost across the street to get things."
"I feel really excited," another resident said. "It makes me happy to live in Lawton."
If this is any testament to how the rest of Lawton and the surrounding communities feel, the Lawton Marketplace is soon to be a very busy place.
A once quiet 82nd Street was lined with cars of eager shoppers Friday who couldn't wait to get their hands on the best deals. City of Lawton Planning Director Richard Rogalski said streets like 82nd, Cache and Quanah Parker Trailway were ready.
"The roadway improvements are more than 95% complete," Rogalski said.
They called for a traffic study as soon as the new center was announced. The street construction plans came straight from that study. The city created a new right turn lane at 82nd and Cache. They also lengthened many turn lanes, so cars weren't stuck in the middle of traffic. In addition, crews widened 82nd Street to five lanes. They installed a new traffic light at 82nd and Gray Warr. That's the center's main entrance, but the changes, even as good as they are, weren't designed to accommodate grand opening traffic.
"We can't design for everyone going there at once," Rogalski said.
So, shoppers will need to be patient.
"Be careful and safe, and make sure we don't create more of a problem then it has to be," Rogalski said.
Rogalski said Lawtonians should just enjoy the fact the have a new place to shop.
"Any merchants in Lawton are welcomed by me. I love to shop!" a Lawton citizen said.
Shoppers have six entrances to choose from when coming to the shopping center. So, Rogalski suggests if you see one is to crowded to just move onto the next.
On top of the excited shoppers, many around the community are also thrilled about the economic effects of the new shopping center.
Lawton Chamber of Commerce President Debra Burch is looking forward to Lawton being a shopping destination for others.
"It's going to keep more of our people here in Lawton, shopping in Lawton, because we have more variety," Burch said. "These are the things we've really been looking for."