Arena selection: a good choice
I'm pleased to report that I was wrong. I predicted that Gary Sparks would be chosen as the architect for the Vision 2025 downtown sports arena. My basis for that prediction -- Sparks was a major contributor to the "Vote Yes" campaign. To be fair, he would not have been a bad choice, given experience with sports venues, but it was getting a little old watching all the top contributors get selected for lucrative contracts to be paid for with the sales tax they paid to promote. But instead of Sparks, a team led by architect Cesar Pelli was picked for the job.
The difference in this case is that the decision was not made by the Tulsa County Commissioners, but by an overview committee appointed by Mayor Bill LaFortune to oversee the new arena and convention center improvements.
Several of the committee members are leaders in TulsaNow, and they wanted to be sure that the new arena would not only serve its immediate function, but would be attractive and a landmark, as well as a catalyst for new development and pedestrian activity. Many arenas create dead zones, either because they're surrounded by acres of surface parking lots, or because the arena is designed to be disconnected from its surroundings with blank exterior walls and large foreboding plaza spaces. Our Civic Center Plaza is a good example of what we don't want around the new arena. Ideally there would be something at street level -- maybe some spaces for restaurants and shops -- that would be an attraction even when there's nothing happening at the arena, and something that could spur development nearby. (There is still the problem that the proposed site is surrounded by government buildings on three sides.)
The good news is that these same people will be involved all through the process, and the dialogue will continue as the architects and engineers bring forward concepts for the new facility.