Another vote for the arena on Elgin


In a guest editorial in today's Whirled, Ed Sharrer calls for rethinking the location of the new downtown sports arena, and nominating a mostly vacant site between 1st & 2nd, Elgin & Greenwood, right in the heart of the Blue Dome entertainment district. Having advocated that idea along with another alternative (click then scroll down a ways), I'm excited to see that someone else sees the same possibilities.

Sharrer points out that the publicized proposed site doesn't offer locations for new development, then sets out the advantages of his proposed site:

Better economic development opportunities.

The Second Street and Elgin Avenue site offers development opportunities in all directions, with the right mix of (mostly vacant) buildings already in place. In fact, city leaders would like to develop an "East Village" concept of shops, lofts and restaurants in that area. What better way to jump-start the effort than to invest $183 million in the neighborhood?

Currently existing entertainment options.

There are restaurants, dance clubs, pubs, an art gallery, and an art movie house within a few blocks of Second Street and Elgin Avenue. Dinner before the game? Dancing after a concert? All within walking distance -- the day the arena opens. Building the arena on the east side of downtown would turn an emerging scene into an instant entertainment destination. These businesses already exist, so there's no need for a "build it and they will come" approach. Let's build the arena where people are already going!

Better access.

Traffic would flow much easier around an east side arena location. Surface streets offer convenient access at Third, Sixth and 11th streets, and there are more expressway exits -- from I-244 at First Street and at Cincinnati/Detroit avenues, the Broken Arrow Expressway at Detroit Avenue, and U.S. 75 at Seventh Street -- than any other part of downtown.

Better fit.

The east side of downtown is simply a better fit for an entertainment venue. The arena's west side "neighbors" would be the post office, central library, city hall, the courthouse and the county jail -- government buildings all. Wouldn't the Blue Dome District, the Brady Arts District, the Performing Arts Center, Greenwood Avenue, OSU-Tulsa and the proposed East Village make more entertaining neighbors?

He acknowledges the idea of connecting the arena to the Convention Center, but lists many cities where there is no such connection. Then near the close, he's got the key quote:

If the arena is built at Third Street and Denver Avenue, we'll create yet another drive up/drive away venue isolated from other attractions. That would be a $125 million opportunity lost.

I didn't want the darned thing, I'm concerned it may be a drain on the city's treasury, but since we're going to do it, let's do it right. Let's do it in a way that makes it an asset to downtown revitalization, not an irrelevancy, as it would be over in the Government Ghetto west of Denver.

P.S. According to courthouse records, the land is owned by L J Realty LLC of Claremore. It is valued at about $750,000 -- the old Santa Fe freight depot at 1st & Elgin, built in 1915, represents about $270,000 of that amount. There ought to be a way to build around it. Leave that building and the land it sits on alone, and the value of the remainder would be about $400,000, less than half the value of just one of the four blocks of the proposed site north of the Federal Courthouse. (I know it isn't that simple, but buying 1.75 blocks of vacant land is bound to be a lot cheaper than four blocks, most of which is developed.)

The question remains -- is it a big enough footprint to build an arena of the proposed size? I suspect it would be, if you stack the two decks on top of each other, rather than having the seating spread out in a single tier. And if you needed a bit more space, you could always cantilever the upper level over the street a bit.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on September 28, 2003 11:36 PM.

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