A two-year renovation project started Monday at the Cox Business Center. Voters approved the money to pay for changes so Tulsa can draw even larger conventions.
The City enlarged the convention center, renovated it a couple of times, but one thing was constant, the old arena in use since 1964, but that’s now about to go.
The plan is to tear out seats and build a ballroom to meet demand for even more convention space.
“One of the largest events we've ever had is the SeneGence conference earlier this year, but, unfortunately, they're quickly outgrowing our space. But this will allow us to hold on to that huge piece of business for the city,” said Jeff Nickler, SMG Tulsa general manager.
The plans call for a new look inside, updating it to the style of the last addition.
Outside, visitors often cannot find the entrance - it's hidden behind and beneath the old city hall plaza. The work includes tearing out part of the plaza to create a new grand entrance facing east towards the center of downtown.
The expectation? Visitors will like it better and come back to Tulsa.
"Not only is the old theory that they'll stay a day early or stay a day longer, new research shows they'll want to come back and visit with their family, so, it's kind of a trial run to get them to love Tulsa," said Cox Business Center Assistant GM Kerry Painter.
Mayor G.T. Bynum said, "And that is why we put this on the Vision project ballot, and why I think voters so overwhelmingly approved of this project."
The $55 million project is part of Tulsa's Vision plan - the sales tax paying for all sorts of improvements.
The work will take two years, and, with it starting this week, Tulsa can start bidding on larger conventions.
"So, this will open up a whole new set of potential clients to come to Tulsa," Nickler said.
The City is cleaning out the old spaces now; among the finds includes dozens of pairs of brand new ice skates and lots of old posters from the many events hosted there.