Tulsa Vision 2025: November 2005 Archives

That's no bull


If you still have confidence in Tulsa Mayor Bill LaFortune's choices when it comes to our new arena and arena management, you need to head over to MeeCiteeWurkor's place and read how LaFortune punted away a major-league Professional Bull Riders event by insisting on scheduling a competing minor league bullriding event immediately before the PBR's scheduled and publicized event. PBR suggested some compromises, including rescheduling the minor league event after the PBR event, but LaFortune wouldn't budge. So we lose an event that "generated the highest gross ticket sales in the 41-year history of the Tulsa Convention Center," -- and we lose it to Oklahoma City, of course.

Here's the press release with all the details.

It's strange that LaFortune was even involved in a decision about events at the convention center.

Notice that Bob Funk, president of Oklahoma City-based Express Personnel was trying to do something nice for Tulsa:

"I asked the PBR a year ago to take a chance on Tulsa," said Bob Funk, owner of Express Sports. "I wanted another stop in Oklahoma. I knew Tulsans would support major league bull riding. I am stunned to learn the city had opted to enter into an agreement with a minor league competitor."

So don't expect Mr. Funk's help in landing future sporting events for Tulsa. Why should he bother? He had teamed with Jeff Lund of the Tulsa Oilers to put this together. Lund has to be wondering about his continued use of the city's facilities, when he could just as well move his team to the Fairgrounds Pavilion, with better parking and a size closer to the usual Oilers crowd.

Thursday's Whirled reported that the losing team in the "competition" to run the new downtown Tulsa sports arena and the convention center feels cheated and wants to know how to file a formal protest. You'll recall that the decision to hire SMG was made a mere 24 hours after the competitors made their presentations. SMG was picked because their estimate of how much money the arena could make was higher than Global Spectrum's. Never mind that SMG's fees are higher than Global Spectrum's would have been.

Just think about that: They won the contract because they made up a wildly optimistic number. It didn't hurt that SMG had done consulting work for Tulsa Vision Builders and that Bart Boatright, the program manager for Tulsa Vision Builders, was responsible for recalculating the financial estimates from the bids for presentation to Mayor Bill LaFortune.

To Global Spectrum: No, there is no way to submit a formal protest. King Willie the Weak had final say, and it appears he already had his mind made up before you even had a chance to be heard. The only recourse would be the courts.

When Bill LaFortune was arguing that the City should pay Bank of Oklahoma $7.5 million that the City doesn't owe, he claimed that not paying the money would make Tulsa look unfriendly to business, and companies wouldn't want to come to Tulsa. But it's these questionable deals we're seeing at the City and the County that will deter companies from wanting to do business with local government, perhaps even from coming to Tulsa at all.

It costs a lot of money to put together a proposal for a government contract. Companies make the effort because they believe their proposals will be considered fairly. If the job always goes to the firm with the political connections, other companies won't bother bidding, and that means higher costs for the taxpayer. Worse than that, if Tulsa gets the reputation of being a city where you have to pay to play, like some sort of banana republic, then even companies that don't do government business will choose to locate elsewhere.

So says Steve Roemerman after visiting the one in Indianapolis, and he's right. He's right about this, too:

Instead of trying to convert into something else, Tulsa should hold fast to the things that are uniquely Tulsan. [Councilor Chris] Medlock believes that Tulsa should focus its strengths, and I believe he is right. I have always been impressed with Tulsa; how it uniquely combines family values, with art and culture. What better way to express those strengths, than with an excellent children’s museum?

There have been a couple of attempts -- Hands On, which was in FlightSafety's old building on 38th Street west of Memorial back in the early '90s, and the Harmon Science Center at 41st and Hudson. We never visited the Harmon Science Center -- they publicized the fact that the center was only open to school groups and since our only child at the time was younger than school age we never got to go. Within a few years the doors were shut.

There are some great children's museums and museums with kid-oriented exhibits within a short drive of Tulsa. There's the Omniplex in Oklahoma City, the Sam Noble museum on the OU campus, and the Jasmine Moran Museum in Seminole. Wichita's Exploration Place -- which is on and partly in the Arkansas River -- has a fantastic room devoted to aviation and another devoted to weather. Little Rock has a good kids museum covering science, history, art, and nature, next to their River Market.

The Tulsa Zoo, the Oklahoma Aquarium, and the Tulsa Air and Space Museum each provide some hands-on exhibits in their field of expertise and they try to present exhibits in a way that is accessible and interesting to children, but it would be nice to have a museum that brings different fields of learning together under one roof.

For all the focus on attracting and retaining young professionals -- and that is important -- Tulsa should build on its strengths, too. Many of my contemporaries spent their twenties and thirties on one of the coasts, but when it came time to raise a family, they swam upstream back to Tulsa.

Steve Roemerman has been blogging about plans of the convenience chain Kum and Go to put a new store on the west side of Riverside at 101st Street. What little private development we have on Tulsa's side of the river turns its back to the river, unlike Jenks Riverwalk Crossing which takes advantage of its location. The two restaurants just north of the Creek Turnpike were built as if the river didn't even exist -- cookie cutter designs with the front toward the street and the grease pit and the dumpster toward the back -- toward the river. Steve points out the riverfront is a limited resource, and it seems a waste to use it in this way.

Oklahoma City has land use regulations in place to protect areas of the city that are important to its appeal to tourists and locals. One special development district is called the Gateway area, and it covers the intersection of I-35 and I-44, around the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, Remington Park, and the Omniplex, an area that acts as OKC's front door from the northeast. Other special districts include Bricktown and Stockyards City.

If we're going to get the most out of the piddly amount of Vision 2025 money designated for river improvements, Tulsa needs land use standards so that development along the river doesn't detract from the river's natural beauty, doesn't act as a wall between the riverbank and the rest of the city, but instead helps to link the two.

Now it's all $183 million?


Dave Schuttler caught this on the City of Tulsa's redesigned website:

The heart of Vision 2025 centers on our $183 million BOK center. Tulsans and visitors alike eagerly await the completion of the new center -- Cesar Pelli's newest masterpiece. Groundbreaking was August 2005.

$183 million was the amount designated in Proposition 3 of the Vision 2025 sales tax election for the new arena and the upgrade of Tulsa's city-owned convention center -- $125 million for the arena, $58 million for the convention center upgrade. It's already been noted that Mayor Bill LaFortune has shifted $16 million away from redoing a facility that brings in new dollars from visitors to building one that simply redistributes the discretionary spending of Tulsans. Is this a subtle way of telling us that he decided to use all $183 million for the arena?

And as for the heart of Vision 2025 centering on the arena, that wasn't the way they sold the package. If anything the "events center," as it was euphemized during the campaign, was downplayed in favor of the university funding in the same proposition and the promise of jobs from a new Boeing facility.

To no one's surprise, Mayor Bill LaFortune selected SMG to manage both the new downtown sports arena and the convention center.

SMG is a joint venture of the Hyatt Hotel Chain and ARAMARK Corporation. The company manages 156 facilities worldwide, including 63 arenas and 44 convention centers. One of the arenas they manage is the Ford Center in Oklahoma City. So when a major concert tour is going to make one stop in Oklahoma, you won't have a competition between the two cities to get the show -- instead SMG will decide, based on their bottom line.

By the way, Mayor LaFortune said at his re-election announcement that if our arena had been in place, Tulsa might have gotten the refugee New Orleans Hornets instead of Oklahoma City. Remember that Katrina hit less than two months before the first game of the NBA season. There were other venues that competed to be the Hornets temporary home, but Oklahoma City a key advantage -- very few events scheduled over the course of the six-month NBA season. The calendar was already mostly clear; a few minor-league hockey games had to be moved to accommodate the Hornets schedule, which has already been set to synchronize with the rest of the league. So if we want a management company who can keep the arena empty most of the time, ready for when Montréal's dormant volcano erupts and forces the Canadiens to find somewhere else to play hockey, we've got the right team.

About this Archive

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

Tulsa Vision 2025: October 2005 is the previous archive.

Tulsa Vision 2025: December 2005 is the next archive.

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?]