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Proposed Oklahoma City Convention Center will include more space, room to grow

BY BRYAN DEAN Modified: November 22, 2009 at 7:36 am •  Published: November 22, 2009
If the planned downtown park is the Xbox under the MAPS 3 Christmas tree, Roy Williams also wants you to appreciate the dress socks your grandmother bought you.

The proposed $280 million convention center is the largest part of the $777 million MAPS 3 plan. Williams, president of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, said most people consider the convention center a project for business owners and out-of-towners.

Everyone needs dress socks, though.

"It is the biggest economic engine of MAPS,” Williams said of the convention center. "These people come in from out of town, they spend the money and they leave.”

The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber commissioned a study earlier this year to determine how much convention space the city needs.

The results showed the Cox Convention Center to be inadequate. Worse still, the building is landlocked by major streets and can’t be expanded. The Cox Convention Center brings in an estimated $30 million a year to the local economy, including $10 million in salaries and 400 jobs, Williams said.

"Essentially the new convention center would triple that,” Williams said. "The impact would go up to nearly $80 million. Salaries and wages would go to about $30 million and employment would go to 1,100.”

Phil Sipe, president of the city’s fire union, which is opposing MAPS 3, said he is concerned by the lack of detail provided on the proposed convention center.

He points to the chamber’s Web site describing each of the projects.

"If you look at the convention center, there are exactly two sentences that describe how they are going to spend $280 million,” Sipe said. "It needs more detail than that before voters are going to make a decision.”

Like the other projects in the MAPS 3 plan, there is no final design for the convention center.

The proposed amenities
The proposed convention center would be 550,000 square feet, which is less than half the size of the Cox Convention Center.

"Well over half the Cox Convention Center has nothing to do with conventions,” Williams said. It’s the arena and support space for the arena.”

The Cox Convention Center has 84,000 square feet of exhibition space, well short of the 200,000 square feet the study indicated the city needs. The new convention center would meet that need and would include enough adjacent open space to allow for a 100,000 square foot expansion decades later when it might be needed. It would not have an arena.

Williams said the new convention center would have a proportional amount of meeting space, ballrooms and lobby areas. Ongoing coverage: MAPS 3


Election Day

Dec. 8

Who can vote?
Registered voters within Oklahoma City limits

What is included in the $777 million plan?
→Downtown park, $130 million

→New convention center, $280 million

→Mass transit initiatives, $130 million

→Oklahoma River improvements, $60 million

→State Fair Park improvements, $60 million

→Health and wellness aquatic centers for senior citizens, $50 million

→Additional bike and pedestrian trails, $40 million

→Sidewalks, $10 million

→Contingency funds, $17 million

History
The Metropolitan Area Projects (MAPS) was a collection of nine projects such as the Bricktown Canal, Ford Center and AT&T Bricktown Ballpark. They were paid for by a five-year, 1-cent sales tax approved by voters in 1993. The tax raised $363 million after voters agreed in 1998 to extend it for six months. MAPS for Kids passed in 2001 as a follow-up to MAPS and raised $714 million through a seven-year, 1-cent sales tax and a school bond issue. Work is still ongoing and includes the renovation or rebuilding of every school in the Oklahoma City district and money for capital projects divided among suburban districts with students in Oklahoma City.

Support
The Yes for MAPS campaign is principally organized and funded by the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber and led by Mayor Mick Cornett. According to the campaign’s Web site, www.yesformaps.com, other supporters include Oklahoma City All Sports Association, Bricktown Association, Downtown Oklahoma City Inc., OKC Beautiful, Neighborhood Alliance of Central Oklahoma, Oklahoma City University, The Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools, Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Oklahoma State Fair Inc., South Oklahoma City Chamber and Arts Council of Oklahoma City. Supporters contend the proposal is the next step as the city continues the growth that began with MAPS in 1993.

Opposition
Oklahoma City’s police and fire unions have organized against MAPS 3, forming a committee called "Not This MAPS." Union officials claim the city needs to keep up staffing in the police and fire departments before moving on with MAPS 3. More information can be found at the opposition Web site, www.okcissues.com. The city has said a use tax could be used for fire and police services if MAPS 3 passes. Union officials are currently in contract negotiations with city officials.

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