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Convention center reflects challenges of Oklahoma City's MAPS 3

This isn't the first time Oklahoma City leaders have been faced with budgeting, timing, and design challenges in MAPS projects.
by Steve Lackmeyer Published: April 2, 2013

When the first Metropolitan Area Projects was launched in 1993, coordinators of the public improvements faced the daunting prospect that such an ambitious, pay-as-you-go approach hadn't been previously attempted.

But at least those planners had plenty of empty land to work with downtown, thanks the stalling of the Urban Renewal implementation of the I.M. Pei plan back in the 1970s.

Figuring out how to assemble the latest MAPS 3 puzzle isn't so easy, especially when one looks at challenges involved in planning for a $250 million convention center.

The empty lots left behind by Pei's failed vision are long gone, most of them built up with housing, retail or in one notable instance, the new $750 million Devon Energy Center.

When site selection was under way, the choices were pretty much limited to sites in Bricktown or in the area between the new Interstate 40 and the Central Business District dubbed “Core to Shore.”

All along, the political pressure was to place the new convention center in Core to Shore, and the site ultimately chosen was one not originally envisioned — south of the Myriad Gardens.

Planners last week confirmed the site works in terms of building the exhibit halls and loading docks underground. But a clear message also emerged: The ideal setup would be to build an adjoining conference hotel to the east on the western edge of the current Cox Convention Center.

The hotel, with a minimum of 600 rooms, is seen as a critical component to the new convention center. But no hotel deal has been struck, and no site for a hotel has been chosen or really even studied.

In talking with City Engineer Eric Wenger, it appears the west exhibit halls at the Cox Convention Center could be cleared separately from the remaining structure to make way for a new hotel. But such an action could hamper future redevelopment of the block, and even the temporary loss of such exhibit space is seen as jeopardizing the city's hard-fought gains in the convention business.

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by Steve Lackmeyer
Business Reporter
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter, columnist and author who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's...
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