WOODWARD — Like many communities throughout western Oklahoma, Woodward is experiencing an economic boom sparked by the energy industry.
The landscape surrounding the northwest Oklahoma town is dotted with both wind turbines and oil and natural gas wells.
And like many communities throughout western Oklahoma, Woodward has experienced boom and bust cycles before, so officials are hoping to use some of the money coming in today to invest in projects that can create long-term value for other sectors of the economy.
The 29,000-square-foot, $7 million Woodward Convention Center that opened in March is a key step in that effort.
“The demand for that facility was recognized more than a decade ago, and has only increased as we have focused on tourism and with the energy play going on here with both traditional natural gas and wind,” City Manager Alan Riffel said. “Having a place for all types of events has shown to be very beneficial to the community.”
One of the convention center's early tenants was last week's inaugural Tri-State Oil and Gas Convention. About 300 people from throughout the region attended the two-day conference.
Community leaders knew there was demand for a convention center, but they underestimated the level of interest.
The city hoped the new facility would be host to 26 events in 2012 and more than 50 in 2013.
The projections were not close to reality.
The center already has been home to more than 40 events, and 98 have been booked for 2012 alone.
“It's far surpassing our expectations,” Riffel said.
The conference center has facilitated oil and gas events such as last week's energy conference. But it also has been used for weddings, trade shows, club meetings and for other industries not directly related to energy production.
“It's going to be a tremendous asset in allowing us to impact a lot of different areas,” Riffel said.
“We looked to a conference center to host events of any size, but it has shown that we can utilize it in a way to give a first impression of the community that is strongly positive.”