The money pit at 2nd and Elwood

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I thought there was something funny about the numbers being bandied about for the cost of building the new downtown sports arena and upgrading the convention center. The ballot resolution for Proposition 3 of Vision 2025 (PDF) included this item:

Tulsa Regional Convention/Events Center, including Convention Center modernization, land, design, and Events Center construction -- $183,000,000.

It wasn't split out between the arena and the convention center in the ballot resolution, but contemporaneous news coverage consistently cites $125 million as the budget for the arena and $58 million for the convention center upgrade. For example, here's Julie DelCour in the August 3, 2003, Tulsa Whirled:

A 1-cent sales tax proposal before voters Sept. 9 includes construction of a $125 million, 18,000-seat events center and a $58 million modernization of the Tulsa Convention Center.

In June 2004 I cited the $125 million number for the arena to compare it to the costs of the arenas to be visited by the city's oversight committee.

Medlock quotes the same numbers -- $125 million for the arena, $58 million for the convention center -- from an August 17, 2003, news story in the Whirled.

The numbers are different now. From Friday's Whirled:

In 2003, voters approved $183 million to construct the arena and make improvements to the convention center. Cost estimates were $141 million for an 18,000-seat arena and $42 million to add at least 10,000 square feet of space and a ballroom to the convention center.

That's $16 million that had been allocated to the convention center toward modernization and a new ballroom. That's 27% of the original budget for the convention center, shifted to pay for our iconic arena. Who made the decision to shift that money? Who gave approval? Now Mayor Bill LaFortune is looking for another $3 million to pay for extra wind resistance for the arena's unnecessary big glass wall, and it looks like that will come out of the convention center as well.

For years we've been told that Tulsa needs to modernize and expand its convention facilities in order to be able to attract more lucrative events and bring outside dollars to Tulsa. Now it appears the Mayor's committee is going to shortchange the facility. A new grand entrance, designed to line up with 5th Street, is going to be put on the back burner. There's talk that the Mayor will try to sneak convention center improvements into the next Third Penny, rather than pay for them with Vision 2025 money as promised. And that means less money for critical capital improvement needs.

A longtime convention center observer told me that the worst-case scenario is that they don't have the money to convert the old arena into something else. Then the old arena -- which is the right size for most events that might be held in the new arena -- would take business from the new arena, but the city would still have pay to operate both. Think about it. Imagine that you run the arena football team, which averages about 5,500 fans a game. Would you rather pay less to hold the game in a smaller facility where the crowd fills more than three-fourths of the seats, or pay more to hold the game in a big facility where the crowd fills a third of the seats?

Is it too late to cut our losses with this arena design? Can we pay Pelli, send him away, and bring in someone who will give us a classy, art-deco-inspired facility, built with sturdier and less-expensive materials, a facility with some street-level retail, so there's some activity when there isn't an event underway? And will someone please tell us who shifted the $16 million?

The Tulsa Beacon has more (link good for one week only).


susan said:

The T.W.Sunday front page Medlock is doing quite well considering how early it is in the race and with the Great Plains PROBLEMS -- note that Stan Lybarger with BOK said they turned down that loan request TWICE! Medlock should be able to easily win Mayor if he keeps hounding LaFortune on making Tulsa taxpayers pick up the tab for
not just the ARENA AND VISION project possible and probable problems as we see he already has asked for another $3 million since 2003 to improve something before the arena is built.

Former Mayor Susan Savage was brought up about the Great Plains issue. DOES EVERYONE REMEMBER THE BIG LEGAL BILL THAT WAS IN QUESTION FROM AN OUT OF STATE COMPANY (MEDLOCK COULD PROVIDE THAT INFO) SUSAN SAVAGE has her own financial questionable issues with a bill the city ended up having to pick up toward the end of her term. Tulsa taxpayers ended up paying that mess up in bad leadership and now LaFortune wants Tulsa taxpayers to pay for Great Plains too?

Chris should keep trying to get those accounting records somehow. If Tulsa taxpayers are going to have to pay, then they should get to SEE ALL RECORDS. (like when you pay off a debt which it is and see what the BOK situation is)

With your Monday morning radio spot, you should be able to raise your $1,000 needed for the trip and some money could be given by Urban Tulsa as a reporter for that paper.

susan said:

You should also inform listeners on your Mondaymorning radio time they can send checks to the Radio Station (attn: batesline) or set up a BATESLINE post office box as some don't have credit cards, don't like to use them, but will donate with a check or cash even a few dollars from many listeners can add up to helping Batesline continue and also with your trip project for the good of Tulsa. There might also be a grant you could apply that helps for the good cause of urban development. See if the City of Tulsa has something available in that area too for Leadership of Tulsa groups, etc. that will also help. Tulsa should invest and take advantage of having Michael Bates as such a valuable resource for helping the City of Tulsa grow into something citizens can be proud of.

Have available a download radio transcript of what is said each Monday for those that don't wake up that early or don't have audio for their computers.

susan said:

On Monday morning on the radio, someone listening to Batesline might also want to donate their travel air miles for your trip making the cost of your trip a lot less! If Dennis Semler isn't allowed to keep all those bundled CITY OF TULSA air miles, maybe he would like to donate his!) I wonder if he is still asking the person that was quoted in the Tulsa World saying he asked her to park in his normal parking spot to give the appearance he was actually at work.
Everone. Taxpayers/citizens of Tulsa need Michael Bates to clean up the problems in downtown Tulsa!

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on October 16, 2005 1:19 AM.

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