The largest piece of the MAPS 3 plan has drawn the largest number of questions from voters. Mayor Mick Cornett and Roy Williams, president of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, have spent lots of time addressing those questions, which range from the convention center’s possible location to why a new convention center is even needed given that the Cox Convention Center was renovated in 1999 as part of the original MAPS plan.
Location, locationA chamber study came up with four possible locations for the convention center. Early renderings showing the proposed downtown park include the convention center on the park’s east side, south of the Ford Center. Jim Cowan, executive director of the Bricktown Association, said although the group supports MAPS 3, some merchants are concerned about putting the convention center next to the park, because it would actually be farther away from Bricktown than a possible location south of Bricktown at the Producer’s Co-op, a cotton mill that went up for sale last year. "We’re pro-MAPS,” Cowan said. "We just want to make sure that convention center is carefully and closely studied.” Supporters of the location east of the park point to Houston. Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center is next to Discovery Green Park, which is similar in concept to the MAPS 3 park. John Klumb, spokesman for the convention center in Houston, said selling the convention center to meeting planners became much easier when the park opened last year. A third possible location for Oklahoma City’s convention center is a lumber yard next to the cotton mill, and the fourth is on the north side of Bricktown. Williams said although he likes the idea of having a convention center next to the park, all proposed locations have advantages and disadvantages. "I think it’s way too early to make these kind of decisions,” Williams said. "There were renderings for the MAPS projects in 1993 because people wanted to see where stuff would go. Nothing got built where those renderings showed.”
TimelineIf MAPS 3 passes, don’t expect to see the convention center built right away. Cornett said the city hasn’t decided which projects will be built first and will make those decisions with the help of a citizen’s oversight committee. But he expects the park will be toward the front of the line. "The convention center will probably be 10 years out, maybe nine,” Cornett said. "Keep in mind that the way we construct MAPS projects, we collect the money before we ever start the process of spending it. As a result, it takes us a long time to complete the projects. With MAPS, the vote was in 1993, the last project opened in the summer of 2004.” Cornett said the Cox Center will be needed until the new convention center is complete. After that, there isn’t a plan. It might stay open for additional convention and arena space, or it could be converted to another use. "The bottom line is we aren’t going to decide now,” Cornett said. "We don’t need to decide now, and we’d like to keep our options open for future city leaders to determine the best use of that property. You really don’t have to worry, though. That is prime real estate and something really terrific can be constructed there.”
RenovationRenovation of the Cox Center was included in the MAPS plan approved by voters in 1993. The work was done in 1999. Though the building opened in 1971, the renovation is only 10 years old. Williams said the work done through MAPS made the building look better, but didn’t solve any of its size limitations. "The renovation was carpet and painting,” Williams said. "It didn’t expand it. It didn’t improve it as far as capacity. It didn’t impact the infrastructure.” Because the Cox Center is surrounded by streets and businesses, it is "landlocked,” he said. "It can’t be expanded,” Williams said. "That building was designed and built as an arena, not a convention center. The exhibition space and meeting rooms were added as an afterthought.”