Who will build the arena?


There's been a flurry of discussion over on the Tulsa Now forums about the design and location of the downtown sports arena to be built with a new 4/10% county sales tax. A lot of good ideas have been put on the table, mostly aimed at ensuring that the arena fits into an urban street grid and enhances the urban fabric of downtown, instead of being designed in a suburban fashion disconnected from its surroundings. (The OSU-Tulsa campus is a classic example of an inappropriate use of suburban land use in an urban area.)

There's a desire to get these good ideas in front of the people who will make the decisions about the new facility, but no one is quite sure who that is. There is said to be an oral agreement between Mayor LaFortune and the County Commission that the County will give the money for the arena to the city, and the city will handle land acquisition and construction, as well as operation and maintenance. There's nothing in writing, however, and the County may well decide to retain control of the construction process, then stick the city with the bill for operation and maintenance. I hear that there is some unease within the Tulsa City Council about the lack of a written agreement giving the city full control.

As to who will actually construct the arena, a friend has a "word of knowledge" about that, surprising since this friend is a Presbyterian and not given to prophecy, but he prophesies that Manhattan Construction will build the facility and FlintCo will supply the steel. Perhaps his prophetic vision was influenced by the presence of the CEOs of Manhattan and FlintCo on the Dialog / Visioning leadership team. From another source, I'm told that although the Tulsa County Commission is subject to state laws governing purchasing and bidding, trusts like the Tulsa County Industrial Authority are not subject to the same rules and could give the business to whomever they wish.

Meanwhile, the good ideas keep flowing. I continue to believe that vacant, city-owned sites closer to Brady Village and the Blue Dome district would give more of a boost to those entertainment districts and encourage new development nearby, and would be less expensive than a site that requires land acquisition. If it must be near the Convention Center, here's another alternative. The State of Oklahoma's office complex, across Houston Avenue from the Convention Center, has a sprawling surface parking lot. If it's impractical to tear down the State's ugly buildings and have them relocate their offices (maybe to the Williams Borg Cube), we might be able to fit an arena where the parking lot is now. The site is very convenient to expressway access, and no businesses would be displaced. To compensate the State for the loss of parking, use the money saved on land acquisition to build the State a parking garage. Perhaps it could be located on the vacant block just north of the Convention Center exhibit hall.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on September 22, 2003 1:10 AM.

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