Even with all the crazy Project 180 construction, the detours, the debates over future development, how can one not fall in love with downtown Oklahoma City?
I'll admit that too often I'm the history guy, sharing stories about downtown's old glory days in the 1940s and 1950s. Of course those are others' stories I'm privileged to have gathered, that I get to distribute to future generations.
But downtown is, without a doubt, enjoying another wonderful era — one that can be shared by everyone.
There's life downtown. I've celebrated it before, but each year the discoveries keep adding up. Back in my college days, friends and I frequently traveled to Dallas to get a taste of big city life. Dallas' West End was often the destination, with its shops, restaurants and clubs. We'd kick back on a Saturday afternoon and enjoy a free live music performance outside the West End Marketplace, or catch one of the many impromptu street performers hustling for a quick buck in their tip jar.
Such adventures are a sign that downtown is alive — and indeed occur almost daily now in Oklahoma City. On any day of the workweek visitors might stumble upon the latest noontime Art Moves performer. On Monday the group, sponsored by the Arts Council of Oklahoma City and Devon Energy, featured a Mozart concert by Wayne McEvilly.
Meanwhile, the revamped Myriad Botanical Gardens is drawing hundreds to free evening concerts and outdoor movies. This Wednesday evening don't be surprised to see my kids and I at a showing of “Shrek” on the grand lawn.
Bricktown remains the heart of downtown's bustling entertainment scene, with the local live music scene given a huge boost two years ago with the arrival of the University of Central Oklahoma's Academy of Contemporary Music. The school has given Bricktown a full-time supply of young musicians eager for an audience. It also has a talented crew of faculty who has drawn crowds of its own. One teacher, Cami Stinson, is a popular singer who shared the Lower Bricktown concert stage (hosted every Thursday evening and sponsored by area Chevy dealers) with performer Matt Stansberry.
Even on the hottest days of the summer, outdoor festivals and concerts are easy to find on almost any day of the week. And only when the city is covered with ice on the coldest days are the streets truly deserted.
With gasoline running at $3 or more a gallon and a transformed downtown, it's difficult to imagine why any college student in 2012 would have much of a reason to go to Dallas.