Mayor Mick Cornett was informed Thursday that the MAPS 3 citizens oversight board will not limit their consideration of convention center sites to two locations in the Core to Shore plan.
Downtown property and business owners, especially those in Bricktown, have been closely following such discussions, with some like hotelier Marsh Pitman saying a site favored by Cornett would hurt the entertainment district.
One committee member on Thursday questioned the appropriateness of the mayor's telling them the choice consists of two spots.
Cornett told the MAPS 3 board at their first meeting on May 27 that "generally it comes down to two sites that are relatively close to each other."
In previous interviews with The Oklahoman, Cornett has identified those sites as property south of Ford Center and east of a planned central park (another MAPS 3 project), and on the Southwestern Producers Coop site south of Lower Bricktown.
"The mayor commented he thought generally it came down to two locations," board member Rusty LaForge said Thursday. "It should be more broad than that. I'm not sure that's (the mayor's instructions) appropriate. Every citizen I've talked to believes there should be a lot more."
$30 million earmark
At the same May 27 meeting Cornett also told the board that $30 million of the $280 million budgeted for a convention center must be spent on buying a substation and buildings belonging to Oklahoma Gas and Electric on the south of Ford Center site that was championed during the MAPS 3
Councilman Larry McAtee, a member of the oversight committee, said the selection process will be handled fairly, and without bias.
McAtee said the city council never agreed to reserve $30 million for the OG&E property, that no public discussion of such a purchase has occurred, and that $280 million will be budgeted for a convention center regardless of what site is chosen.
"This will get cleared up as we move forward with the process of selecting a site, and selecting the consultants, and looking at the details of the sites," McAtee said. "There will be an open selection process for the convention center."
Cornett, who wasn't present at Thursday's meeting, declined to comment on his prior instructions to the group, but added they should be free to evaluate various options.
"They should look at the sites they feel like they should look at," he said.
As for the $30 million he said should be reserved for the OG&E property, Cornett said: "I would agree there has been no decision made. It's my opinion that the $30 million stays with the site so we can address those needs, and I don't think we're even sure what they are."
Cornett said he did mention using the $30 million for the OG&E property during the MAPS 3 campaign, though he acknowledged it was never listed in campaign literature and wasn't in the resolution passed by the council addressing how the MAPS 3 proceeds would be spent. Voters were told in all materials that $280 million would be budgeted for a convention center with no ties to site selection.
City Manager Jim Couch told the MAPS 3 committee the mayor's comments on May 27 reflected his own opinions. But afterward, he said council members were aware of the mayor's plans to use $30 million to buy the OG&E property even though such discussions never took place in public and never involved a vote.
"In the last days, there was a lot of changing of MAPS 3," Couch said. "We were trying to keep it under a seven-year program. We went up to seven years and nine months. There were some dynamics going on, budgets changing. We saw some issues with OG&E, and the mayor said, 'We need to get rid of the substation and let's put in $30 million for that.'"