OKLAHOMA City has baseball and hockey and basketball galore. Myriad restaurants and clubs await visitors of all ages. We have culture, too, with museums and venues for plays, concerts and ballet. So what’s next? A new convention center. A new report confirms what many around the city already suspected if it wants to draw more convention business and become a second-tier city: Oklahoma City has been losing ground in the contest to attract big conventions and needs to replace the Cox Convention Center. The potential $400 million price tag is big. The risk of falling further behind in attracting visitors is even bigger. It’s trite but true: Cities that aren’t moving forward are falling backward. After years of effort, energy and investment, we don’t want the latter. Mayor Mick Cornett and the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, which commissioned the study, backed the recommendation although many details still must be worked out. A new convention center could be part of a MAPS 3 sales tax election later this year or next year. Voters could be asked to simply replace the tax now dedicated to Ford Center improvements as it expires or the city might opt to give taxpayers a short break from the tax before asking to levy it again. There’s also the question of what to do with the aging Cox Center and the arena events it hosts, including basketball, hockey and arena football. Those are decisions for a future day. For now, residents need to reflect on just how far we’ve come to imagine how much further we can go. Downtown workers hit the streets at lunch with many dining choices. Some even stay after hours, choosing to live in a downtown area that not so long ago was blighted and not a place most with a choice would call home. And then there are times, like this week, when the excitement of big events like the Big 12 basketball tournament keeps downtown and Bricktown hopping day and night. Visitors don’t always know much about our city and getting them here is a challenge. But once here, they’re drawn in by our friendly people and the sights and sounds of the reinvigorated downtown and Bricktown areas. Our city only got to this point because we boldly — if skeptically at first — decided to invest in ourselves as part of the original MAPS projects. Are we willing to let our city continue to grow and prosper? We hope when it’s time for citizens to answer that question, they’ll leave no doubt that our pioneering spirit is still alive and well.
Visitors don’t always know much about our city and getting them here is a challenge. But once here, they’re drawn in by our friendly people and the sights and sounds of the reinvigorated downtown and Bricktown areas.