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NBA Finals caps 25-year downtown revival in Oklahoma City

Oklahoman business writer Steve Lackmeyer compares downtown Oklahoma City of 2012 to what it looked like a quarter-century ago.
by Steve Lackmeyer Modified: June 11, 2012 at 11:09 pm •  Published: June 12, 2012

Editor's note: Today's regular OKC Central column has been refocused for a weeklong series looking at Oklahoma City's revival.

The satellite trucks are back. More than 500 people representing media organizations are in town this week — a gathering not seen since the worst tragedy in the city's history took place with the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building one spring morning in 1995 that claimed 168 lives.

This occasion, however, is no tragedy. Oklahoma City is hosting the biggest sports event in the world this week with the start of NBA Finals at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

And amid the basketball frenzy, my time spent downtown this weekend was a reminder that Oklahoma City's success story goes far beyond our beloved Thunder.

A pleasant breeze provided for perfect outdoor viewing Saturday night. Hundreds gathered on the lawn to watch “Under African Skies,” a documentary about Paul Simon's “Graceland” album and how it conflicted with the 1980s boycott of South Africa. The film was a part of the thriving deadCenter Film Festival, which boasted numerous sold-out screenings and attendance by major Hollywood names including James Marsden, Famke Janssen, Chris Kattan, Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally.

The festival didn't exist a dozen years ago and now draws thousands downtown.

The same can be said for the drag boat races over the weekend along the Oklahoma River.

And in the middle of it all, Oklahoma's American Indian heritage was on display at the Cox Convention Center with the annual Red Earth Festival.

Shifting rows, roles

Downtown is alive — even in areas once written off as hopeless. Sheridan Avenue west of Walker Avenue was once dismissed as “Skid Row,” yet it has emerged the past few years as a reinvented “Film Row.” The strip last weekend was a popular spot for after-screening wine parties for deadCenter participants, and Joey's Pizzeria, located in the landmark Film Exchange Building, at 700 W Sheridan Ave., has become a top pick for many seeking late-night dining options.

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by Steve Lackmeyer
Business Reporter
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter and columnist who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's Metropolitan...
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At a glance

Downtown OKC, then and now:

Sports franchises

1988: Zero.

2012: RedHawks baseball, Thunder basketball, Barons hockey.

Corporate headquarters with 200-plus workers

1988: Kerr-McGee, Oklahoma Gas & Electric, Oklahoma Publishing Co., W&W Steel.

2012: BancFirst, Devon Energy, Oklahoma Gas & Electric, Continental Resources, Sonic, SandRidge Energy, Enogex, W&W Steel, American Farmers and Ranchers Insurance.

Restaurants in Bricktown

1988: Piggy's Hickory Pit, 300 E Main (now home to Bricktown Burgers).

2012: Thirty-two restaurants.

Hotels

1988: Sheraton Hotel.

2012: Sheraton Hotel, Skirvin Hilton Hotel, Renaissance Hotel, Colcord Hotel, Hampton Inn, Residence Inn, Courtyard by Marriott (an Aloft Hotel is under construction).

Theaters

1988: Zero.

2012: Harkins, 16 screens; Oklahoma City Museum of Art, one independent cinema.

Museums

1988: Zero.

2012: Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, Oklahoma City Museum of Art, American Banjo Museum.

Multifamily housing

1988: Sycamore Square, Regency Tower.

2012: Sycamore Square, Regency Tower, Legacy at Arts Quarter, Fifth Avenue Lofts, The Garage, Park Harvey Apartments, The Centennial, Deep Deuce Apartments, 2nd Street Lofts, the Brownstones at Maywood Park, Level Urban Apartments, The Hill, Central Avenue Villas, Block 42.

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