The debate over whether the city should pursue development of a conference hotel will likely enter a new phase this week when residents will know whether the project is likely to move forward or die.
For the past few years, the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber and the Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau have argued a conference hotel is critical to the success of a new convention center being built as part of MAPS 3. Everyone involved acknowledges that for such a hotel to be developed, some sort of public financing will be required.
But what that public financing might total, and its source, remain a mystery that might be resolved this next year.
The Oklahoma City Council was asked in June to authorize hiring a consultant to come up with such an analysis. But the council asked that the Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City first engage studies to determine if a large hotel is viable, and what economic impact might result.
Those studies are being presented at this week's City Council meeting, and as first reported in The Oklahoman on Saturday, city leaders are being advised the city can support an approximately $200 million, 735-room full-service hotel with multiple restaurants, lounge, meeting and ballroom space.
Downtown was home to just one hotel 20 years ago, but with ongoing construction of new hotels — (most of them limited service operations) — the downtown area room count is set to exceed 3,000.
The study by consultant Jeremy Stone, however, hones that room count down to 1,265 rooms spread out over five full-service hotels — the Skirvin Hilton, the Courtyard by Marriott, and the Sheraton, Renaissance and Colcord hotels. The other hotels are all considered limited service operations.
Stone and others say it's the full-service room count that is holding Oklahoma City back. Mike Carrier, president of the Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau, argues his staff routinely misses out booking large conventions in the energy, aviation and biosciences industries due to the city's aging convention center and the lack of a large hotel.
Stone said the addition of the convention center, along with the hotel and other MAPS 3 improvements including a Core to Shore park and a streetcar system, will likely boost Oklahoma City's competitiveness in attracting conventions and place it on a level with Fort Worth, Texas; Louisville, Ky.; and Kansas City.