Oklahoma's City's vision and the Ford Center

Tuesday, July 15th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

While Tulsa struggles with its sales tax woes, people in Oklahoma City will be dancing in the aisles of the Ford Center. The Dave Matthews Band, one of the hottest tickets right now in the music world, took to the stage at Oklahoma City's new arena Tuesday.

News on 6 business reporter Steve Berg takes a look at what's going on in Oklahoma City and what may be for the city of Tulsa. It's easy to see what the Oklahoma City "MAPS" project has done for the city, but Downtown Development Director Karen Ocker says it wasn't always that way. "There were naysayers over every part of MAPS. MAPS narrowly passed, it only passed by 54%, which shows you the trepidation of citians at the time."

The same kind of fear that Tulsans have now about the Vision plan. Worries over whether an arena here will actually be used. Ask the Ford Center's promoter Gary Desjardins about the attendance and you'll probably get a big smile. "The nice thing is that we have done at least the national average if not better." He says they predicted 13 concerts the first year, they've had 26, and in fact he has trouble remembering them all. "But we've had Fleetwood Mac, Dave Matthews, George Strait, Toby Keith, Alan Jackson, Tim McGraw, the Dixie Chicks. Many people wonder if an arena will actually spur economic development. Well here in Oklahoma City, John Hammons is building his second hotel downtown right next to the arena, not all the examples are this obvious, but there are a lot of them."

Hammons first hotel is full Tuesday because of the concert, along with the downtown Westin. In nearby Bricktown, the bustling restaurant district awaits the crowds.

Ocker says there's been 130-million dollars in private investment downtown, even since MAPS ended. “It was the kick we all needed. The shot in the arm. Whatever you want to say, but it was what we needed to get development started. And realizing it's not a fix-all, but it's a start, you can't fix everything for all people all at once, but you have to start somewhere."

A bit of history. Voters in Oklahoma City approved the MAPS project in December of 1993. The Ford Center was finished in June of 2002. If Tulsa's Vision project were approved, it would be done with bond money, which would allow projects here to start much faster.