How to improve the convention center without building a new arena


To finish a thought from yesterday: Here's how you expand and improve the Convention Center, as recommended by the consultants, without also building a brand new downtown sports arena.

Conventions, Sports, and Leisure (CSL), a consulting firm, was hired by the City and the Metro Tulsa Chamber to study the feasibility of several major downtown projects. Regarding the downtown Convention Center they recommended improvements in technology and aesthetics and the addition of a 25,000 square foot ballroom and 10,000 square feet of meeting space. It has been asserted that we need to put the additional space where the existing sports arena is, and therefore it wouldn't make sense to do the Convention Center improvements without building a new sports arena.

(The CSL report did not indicate that a bigger sports arena was needed to accommodate conventions, and in fact it noted that over the last three years, only 14 arena events used more than 7,000 seats, and only 3 of those used more than 7,500 of the 8,900 available. The median event drew less than 3,500 people. Perhaps proponents of a new and bigger sports arena would like two seats between them and the next person, instead of just one.)

Here's an alternative that leaves the existing sports arena in place: There is a vacant city block north of the existing Convention Center exhibit hall and west of the parking garage. As a full block, it has an area of 90,000 square feet more or less, not counting the stub of 4th Street between the exhibit hall and the lot of which I speak. That's plenty of space for a recommended 35,000 square foot expansion, plus corridors and service areas.

Whether we need a new taxpayer-funded arena or not, whether or not we need to expand the Convention Center are separate issues. The point I wish to make is that the two issues can be separated, and they should be separated on this ballot. In 1997 and 2000 , many Tulsans were frustrated that they could not support Convention Center improvements without having to buy (for twice the price) a new sports arena. This time, Tulsans deserve a full, fair, and flexible choice. I'm hoping our County Commissioners will give us that choice.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on June 26, 2003 11:39 PM.

$877 million "Vision" plan unveiled was the previous entry in this blog.

A hopeful sign is the next entry in this blog.

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