Will Drillers follow Sixers south?

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My column in this issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly is about the news that the Tulsa 66ers will be moving to Bixby and what that means for the prospects of luring the Tulsa Drillers to downtown Tulsa. The same factors that make Bixby, Regal Plaza, and the SpiritBank event center attractive to minor-league basketball will be present in Jenks's River District development. Global Development's East End project, with surrounding mixed-use development, would have come closer to the situation the 66ers will enjoy in Bixby (minus the demographic advantages). Can an isolated ballpark in downtown present as appealing a situation to Drillers owner Chuck Lamson as a Jenks stadium surrounded by restaurants and nightclubs? Can Tulsa offer a better downtown location? Is a Tulsa Landing, with a ballpark on the river, still an option? And how do we keep family entertainment in central Tulsa if we can't keep families here? Reader Joe Gaudet posted this comment on the article:

You hit the nail on the head. When me and my wife moved here in 2000 with our two (then) small children we were intent on living in town. We interviewed school principals and studied real estate for six months plus. Our desire was to enroll the kids in Monte Cassino and try to live close by because we wanted our kids to be able to walk or bike to school in safety. The beginning of the school year forced us to make a decision and we selected a home in South Tulsa because there was much more house to be had for the money plus the Jenks school district had a great reputation. Our kids are teens now. One is in college and the other graduates High School in two years. My wife and I are planning to move in town then, that is providing we can find affordable housing to downsize to and public safety still remains an issue for us, especially as we get older. We do not carry concealed weapons and do not choose to. We do enjoy walking to entertainment and right now Brookside or Cherry St. looks to be the best option, except as Bixby and Jenks evolve the idea of a condo nearby starts to become an alternative. I am only citing my personal example but I am sure there are others like myself that would live in town if the key items were not repetitive issues: A) Public Safety B) Affordable Housing and C) Quality K-12 ed. Swanky loft living is attractive for young singles but if the goal is to get residential to support downtown retail and entertainment one must consider the needs of young families.

Also in this week's issue, a column by Tulsa County Commissioner Randi Miller about what might be done with Drillers Stadium when the Drillers move away. After speculating on the use of the ballpark as an outdoor music venue and a soccer stadium, she concludes with this surprising idea:

If there are no feasible ideas for retaining the stadium as a sports/music venue and the stadium has to come down, we could look to the private sector to develop a state-of-the-art family entertainment facility. Along those lines, perhaps there will come a time when the Fair Meadows Race Track is not the best usage of all the real estate currently used for the track, given that there are less than 30 live racing days a year and the rest of the time the property sits largely unused. If a good portion of the Expo Square real estate from 15th Street to 21st Street along Yale was cleared and opened for private development, it could create the perfect economic development climate to compliment the already great improvements happening at Expo Square.

Sounds like she thinks Fair Meadows is already a waste of space. Beyond that, anyone struck by the irony that the commissioner who led the charge to demolish Bell's Amusement Park thinks an amusement park at the fairgrounds would be a good idea? And who do you suppose would build a such a facility between 15th & 21st on Yale? Could it be the people who already lease the southern end of that strip for Big Splash?

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2 Comments

Floyd said:

Re: "an isolated ballpark in downtown . . . ."

Isn't this an oxymoron? I would think a ballpark in the suburbs seems more isolated.

I understand the question you're asking - why not have adjacent restaurants? Perhaps the right question should be, where do we want the restaurants in Tulsa to be? It's not unsafe to assume that new entertainment venues and living spaces will spring up nearby, once the stadium development is underway. With that assumption in hand, isn't the real question where the best spot for a stadium might be for all of Tulsa, and not just those who have chosen to move to the far south?

Floyd, arena development has been underway for four years, and I'm still waiting to see new entertainment venues and living spaces spring up adjacent to it. It's hard to imagine that a ballpark, which will be in use fewer nights a year than the arena, would be more successful in attracting new development on its own.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on February 16, 2008 11:01 PM.

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