No surprise: Vision 2025 campaign contributors get arena construction job


The contract to build the most expensive item on the Vision 2025 ballot -- the new downtown sports arena and convention center expansion -- will go to a team of two local construction companies (jump page here) who were represented on the Dialog / Vision leadership team and were among the most generous contributors to the vote yes campaign. Manhattan Construction contributed $25,000 to the campaign, and Manhattan's chairman, Francis Rooney, was on the leadership team. Flintco contributed $21,500 to the campaign, and Flintco's president, Tom Maxwell, was on the leadership team.

Manhattan and Flintco, teamed up as "Tulsa Vision Builders", were selected over Tetra Tech, which has a Tulsa office, and Turner Construction, of Arlington, Virginia. Some will argue that this represents a promise kept -- to use local suppliers to the greatest extent possible. It should be remembered, however, that several other local companies were filtered out in the first round. No public reason was given for eliminating these other Tulsa companies -- there was some mention of a point system -- although it certainly set things up nicely that among local companies only this team of politically-connected firms made it through to the final round.

There is no question that Manhattan and Flintco have been involved in some significant arena and stadium projects over the years, and worked together to complete the dome on the State Capitol. There is no question that they have the expertise to carry out the project. The question is whether the best and most cost-effective team was selected, or whether favoritism played a role.

It all seems too cozy. These two major construction companies get a seat at the table, as part of the leadership team, with a voice and a vote as a "vision" is defined for the Tulsa metro area -- an opportunity denied to representatives of small businesses, neighborhoods, churches, colleges, and schools. Perhaps not coincidentally, the leadership team concludes that major construction projects are what Tulsa most needs for improving its quality of life. And then the companies that are most generous in helping persuade the public to part with their tax money are rewarded with the biggest piece of the pie. They will recoup their campaign contribution many times over.

The next big decision is to choose an architecture and engineering team. Looking again at the list of contributors, the biggest donor who has yet to receive a return on investment is architect Gary Sparks, whose firm gave $10,000 to the vote yes campaign. Sparks does have experience in the field -- he designed the expansion of Gallagher-Iba, coming up with a very creative solution which left the heart of the legendary fieldhouse intact while expanding up and out to double the number of seats, from 6,300 to about 13,000. (Perhaps that could be done here -- save the cost of acquiring additional land.)

I'm betting that Sparks will get the nod.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on December 7, 2003 11:58 PM.

71st and Harvard lawsuit to go forward was the previous entry in this blog.

Mayor wields the veto pen is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.



Subscribe to feed Subscribe to this blog's feed:
[What is this?]