“You pile up enough tomorrows, and you'll find you are left with nothing but a lot of empty yesterdays. I don't know about you, but I'd like to make today worth remembering.”
Professor Harold Hill, “The Music Man”
“You are on the cutting edge. Make the right decision.”
Rick Horrow, Florida sports consultant, at a November 1993 rally promoting MAPS
The fictional Harold Hill and the far more genuine, real-life Rick Horrow were out-of-towners, selling dreams that would ultimately win their hosts' hearts and minds.
Twenty years ago, Horrow was hitting every neighborhood gathering, every business luncheon possible in his quest to convince voters that Oklahoma City had a chance at making the big leagues.
He boasted the mix of sports, recreation, entertainment, and cultural and educational projects making up MAPS was the most comprehensive plan “ever attempted anywhere in the country in one funding and implementation package.”
He described his role in Oklahoma City this way in January 1993: “My job is part historian, part information analyst, part consensus builder, part cheerleader and part lightning rod.”
Before coming to Oklahoma, Horrow had taken his consulting business national after putting together deals to bring the Miami Heat to a new arena in Florida.
He also put together a financing plan for Joe Robbie Stadium in Florida and moved the Lady Professional Golfers Association to Daytona Beach, Fla.
Horrow worked with Scottsdale, Ariz., officials to develop a tax referendum that would pay for new spring training facilities for the San Francisco Giants.
Horrow also helped the Cleveland Indians and the Baltimore Orioles look at their stadium needs. He developed financing plans for three amphitheaters in Charlotte, N.C., Phoenix and in south Florida.
The Floridian was giving a sports law lecture at the University of Oklahoma when he first met then-Mayor Ron Norick and heard about his dream called MAPS.
Horrow said Norick's plan was the boldest effort he had ever seen by a city to improve its infrastructure — or buildings, bricks and mortar — while dramatically raising the quality of life for its residents.
He also became friends with Norick and joined him in trying to assist business executive Clay Bennett in winning an NHL team for Oklahoma City. Those mid-1990s efforts did not attract a team, but they laid the groundwork for Bennett's ultimate success in bringing the NBA to town.
Horrow is set to return to Oklahoma City during events recognizing the 20th anniversary of MAPS. He recently visited with The Oklahoman to reflect on landmark effort.
Q: You were the master promoter behind the original Metropolitan Area Projects. You've maintained close ties to the city ever since, making repeated return trips. What is it that makes Oklahoma City such an attractive community for you?
A: After nearly 20 visits to town over the last 20 years, I can say that it is effectively like a second home without relatives. The timing of the work with Ron Norick and his amazing leadership made me feel like he was defining the long-term destiny of an entire region. I originally felt honored to be part of that and more so over the past 20 years. Professionally it was the second major transformation project I had been involved in after developing Miami sports facilities and helping bring the Heat to Miami. My second daughter is turning 20 this week; we celebrated a very important birthday around the original MAPS, so that was very important to me, as well.