Emory Bryan, News On 6
TULSA, Oklahoma -- The NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, going on right now, was one of the driving factors in promoting the construction, planning and design of the BOK Center.
09/06/2008 Related Story: BOK Center Opens In Style
It's another milestone for the Arena and for Tulsa. Back when the tax that paid for the arena was on the ballot, there were a lot of questions about whether it would be a success.
This weekend is close to a final answer.
The crowds at the BOK Center are just what was predicted by supporters of the Vision 2025 plan, and the success of the Arena is a surprise to a strong, now former, critic.
"And I'll be the first to admit the BOK Center has outshined any expectation that I had of success," said Tulsa City Councilor Jack Henderson.
There was opposition to the whole Vision plan, but the price tag on the arena made it the flashpoint, and for supporters, the anchor of the whole package.
"We all know what we're missing out on. We're seeing it go to Oklahoma City, Little Rock, and it's money spent by Tulsans and lots of other people," said former Tulsa Mayor Bill Lafortune.
Now with near capacity crowds rolling in, the BOK Center can claim to have attracted the biggest event so far, and about as big a sporting event as Tulsa could expect to get.
"We've have major concerts, Billy Joel, Elton John, Eagles twice, Paul McCartney, some huge concerts and they fill up the arena, but this is awesome because we have a full arena three times over two days so it's that many people times three," said Jeff Nickler, BOK Center.
Every element of the Arena was controversial at some point, from the condemnation of land for the building to the selection of architect Cesar Pelli.
The construction of BOK Center went millions of dollars over the initial budget, and the opening has so far not fueled the rush of development some expected.
"And that's one of the disappointments. I really thought once the success was there, we'd see that side of downtown growing by leaps and that's not happening as fast as some people want to see it," Henderson said.