Private enterprise and major entertainment venues


Yesterday morning I went downtown to the Dialog / Visioning 2025 Leadership Team to hear presentations on several proposed projects. These project presentations are part of the final phases of a process which will lead to the selection of publicly-financed projects to come before the voters in the fall.

I missed most of the arena and soccer stadium presentations, but got there in time to hear about two amphitheater proposals. Bill Bowman of Oklahoma Music magazine is building a $25 million amphitheater five miles west of downtown Tulsa, north of the Keystone Expressway at 81st West Avenue in a valley seemingly designed by God for the purpose. The financing is lined up, zoning permission has been obtained, and ground will be broken in June 2003, with a planned opening about a year later. The venue will be state-of-the-art, will hold up to 20,000 people -- 10,000 under the roof, designed to allow for year-round events. They plan to take advantage of Tulsa's fiber optic backbone to broadcast live concerts world wide.

The most impressive thing about this project is that it is entirely privately financed. After years of being told that Tulsans have to raise their taxes to build a venue worthy of Phish, Cher, and Paul McCartney, a private company comes along and just does it. They see a market, they think they can exploit and even drive demand, they are willing to take the risk, and if it works they'll reap the rewards. Meanwhile, Tulsa will have a world-class concert venue without paying higher taxes.

The only public investment Bowman is seeking is for improvements to nearby roads to accommodate the additional traffic -- widening 81st West Avenue to five lanes and improving the interchange with the Keystone Expressway -- about $5 million for a road that also can serve new development in Tulsa's undeveloped northwest territories.

The only other thing Bowman asked (indirectly and politely) was that the government not build a comparable publicly financed amphitheater. The issue was raised by a question from the audience, and Bowman said that the uncertainty about whether his facility would be competing with a tax-funded facility was making it hard to nail down deals with sponsors and promoters.

Predictably, the Tulsa World downplayed news of the development, but Tulsa Today has a great story.

Tulsans ought to get behind this and tell the Mayor, County Commissioners, and the other public officials and business leaders who serve on the leadership team to provide the small amount of help needed to make it happen. Let's hope politics doesn't keep a businessman from building something great for Tulsa.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on May 1, 2003 7:02 PM.

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