Tulsa Vision 2025: October 2005 Archives

Joe Kelley is a quick learner:

I have an interesting challenge on my radio show. My interview segments vary in time from 90-seconds to about 5 minutes. Therefore, I have the responsibility of pulling answers out of my guests as quickly and efficiently as possible, lest I run out of time. I avoid niceties and small talk and get right to the heart of my questions. Yet, some guests, particularly politicians, understand that with my show and other LIVE radio and TV shows (like Meet the Press, et al) if they talk with long enough rhetoric, they can avoid actually answering the question at hand. In essence, they filibuster me; or, in sports terminology, they run out the clock.

What inspired this epiphany? Joe interviewed Mayor Bill LaFortune about the movement of Vision 2025 funding from the convention center refurbishment to the construction of the arena. Joe is very diplomatic about it all, but he's not going to let anyone off the hook.

Now, I don’t want to accuse the good Mayor of filibustering me, but I can tell you that he provided far more extraneous information and far less relevant information then I needed and my listeners deserved.

I will implement a new policy on my show henceforth: when the clock runs out without the requisite answers, I will kindly ask that the guest hold on and will record the rest of the interview with them during the commercial break for later playback. Let’s just call it "overtime."

Joe goes on to mention the impact of the hurricanes on the cost of a minor construction job at his house and wonders about the impact on the cost of the arena.

It's no wonder the Mayor would try to run out the clock. He and he alone had the final say on the choice of the arena location (which affected the cost of land acquisition and utility relocation), the choice of architect (and by choosing a starchitect, he pretty much guaranteed a very expensive arena), and the allocation of the $183 million between the arena and the convention center. The county had no role in any of those decisions, and neither did the City Council.

Shouldn't we figure out how much this arena is going to cost and go back to Tulsa's voters and ask, "Do you still want an arena at this price?" before we sink any more money into this pit.

Nice of him to pitch in

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An exclusive, positively retouched photograph:

LaFortune hauls cash

Of course, this photo is utter fiction. If it were real, you'd see him hauling the cash in the other direction.

Ron W. at Route 66 News has posted the first in a series on the Vision 2025 Route 66 project. He points out that the $15 million in Vision 2025 for Route 66 dwarfs the federal $10 million fund.

He got a copy of the "Vision 2025 Route 66 Enhancements and Promotion Master Plan of Development," which included a marketing survey to find out what would make Route 66 in Tulsa County a draw for tourists:

One thing that stuck out in the survey results is that a “generation chasm” may hamper future interest in Route 66. Anyone born after the final baby-boom year of 1964 "sees this highway as an old, worn-out piece of technology," the report said. So Littlefield and Vision 2025 figured they had a tough job on their hands — make Tulsa’s Mother Road appeal not only to more receptive folks like baby boomers and hardcore Route 66ers, but also spark interest to the more skeptical, young, tech-savvy travelers.

Most of the guidelines he quoted from the plan make sense, but this one worried me: "Make it hip — in the era of iPods and blogs, Route 66 desperately needs a cool factor."

The impression I get is that the folks who prepared this report don't understand the idea of a niche attraction. Route 66 is never likely to be a mass appeal attraction. The way to approach it is to make it a high-quality, must-see attraction for enthusiasts, but make it accessible to interested outsiders. If you take the other approach -- dumb it down for people who don't know and don't care about 66 -- you won't create anything interesting enough to make it worth the enthusiasts' while to stay the night and spend money.

Here's another important point. We shouldn't trying to market Route 66 as a whole, but the unique roadside features of Tulsa County's stretch of road. Route 66 is over 2,000 miles long, with a lot of variety along the way. What can we do to highlight the unique landmarks on our stretch of road?

Ron W. promises more installments to come.

UPDATE: Part 2 is online.

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).

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa Vision 2025 category from October 2005.

Tulsa Vision 2025: September 2005 is the previous archive.

Tulsa Vision 2025: November 2005 is the next archive.

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