Oklahoma City is faring well as a conference destination, but its convention center is inadequate and must be replaced if the city is to remain competitive, according to a study commissioned by the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber.
The study by Conventions, Sports & Leisure International, released today, suggests that replacing the 38-year-old Cox Convention Center will cost between $250 million and $400 million.
Mayor Mick Cornett has suggested for the past two years that any MAPS 3 should include a new convention center as a priority project. That call is being joined by the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber.
“We believe the convention center plays a vital role in the development of the visitor industry and in the development of downtown,” said David Thompson, chamber chairman. “This study tells us clearly that our current center is not large enough, nor does it boast the amenities we need to be competitive. It is time for us to make an investment in this industry or recognize that we are slowly going out of business as far as conventions are concerned.”
Roy Williams, chamber president, said discussions began with the city and the Oklahoma State Fair Board about launching a marketing study on how to attract more visitors.
Williams said Conventions, Sports & Leisure was chosen because of reputation and prior experience looking at Oklahoma City’s convention market.
Williams said the study is ongoing. The first phase included a comparison to cities Oklahoma City competes with for conventions, and a destination market analysis that considers the likelihood the city can move up to the next tier with a new convention center.
“The destination market analysis looks at other amenities you should have to attract visitors and what amenities you should have to attract visitors,” Williams said.