Oklahoma City's downtown arena overcomes concerns

Tuesday, August 16th 2005, 10:21 am
By: News On 6

Tulsa leaders say they learned a lot from Oklahoma City when they were putting the Vision 2025 plan together. Now, they are learning about the criticism.

News on 6 reporter Steve Berg says the headlines probably look familiar, ‘Arena completion delayed,’ ‘2 arenas too many, study hints,’ ‘Cost of building arena may be out of ballpark.’ Those headlines are not talking about the Vision plan in Tulsa. It's MAPS in Oklahoma City, from the late 1990's.

Tulsa mayor Bill LaFortune: "Oh, It's absolutely uncanny." The News on 6 showed the headlines to Tulsa Mayor Bill LaFortune, who says Oklahoma City's mayor warned him to expect a lot of angst. Bill LaFortune: "We expected that to happen here. I think it's fairly typical of most cities that people vote for projects and anticipation for the projects is so great, that they expect it overnight."

In fact, as downtown Oklahoma City's former marketing director told the News on 6, MAPS got off to an even rougher start than Vision 2025. Karen Ocker: "There were nay-sayers over every part of MAPS. MAPS narrowly passed; it only passed by 54 percent, which shows you the trepidation of citizens at the time."

Bill LaFortune: "but the good news is that knowing once the projects were completed, you saw a population in Oklahoma City go from 51 percent when it passed to 90-plus percent approval now that it's completed and they're glad it happened."

The Ford Center almost didn't get built when the city lost its bid to land a National Hockey League franchise, with some calling for a smaller arena and worries whether it would get used. Bill LaFortune: “I think it's very telling to see in other cities, the same almost exact complaints, but once the facility was completed, everybody in Oklahoma City raves about the concerts and the sporting events that they have there."