If the planned downtown park is the Xbox under the MAPS 3 Christmas tree, Roy Williams also wants you to appreciate the dress socks your grandmother bought you.
The proposed $280 million convention center is the largest part of the $777 million MAPS 3 plan. Williams, president of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, said most people consider the convention center a project for business owners and out-of-towners.
Everyone needs dress socks, though.
"It is the biggest economic engine of MAPS,” Williams said of the convention center. "These people come in from out of town, they spend the money and they leave.”
The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber commissioned a study earlier this year to determine how much convention space the city needs.
The results showed the Cox Convention Center to be inadequate. Worse still, the building is landlocked by major streets and can’t be expanded. The Cox Convention Center brings in an estimated $30 million a year to the local economy, including $10 million in salaries and 400 jobs, Williams said.
"Essentially the new convention center would triple that,” Williams said. "The impact would go up to nearly $80 million. Salaries and wages would go to about $30 million and employment would go to 1,100.”
Phil Sipe, president of the city’s fire union, which is opposing MAPS 3, said he is concerned by the lack of detail provided on the proposed convention center.
He points to the chamber’s Web site describing each of the projects.
"If you look at the convention center, there are exactly two sentences that describe how they are going to spend $280 million,” Sipe said. "It needs more detail than that before voters are going to make a decision.”
Like the other projects in the MAPS 3 plan, there is no final design for the convention center.
The proposed amenities
The proposed convention center would be 550,000 square feet, which is less than half the size of the Cox Convention Center.
"Well over half the Cox Convention Center has nothing to do with conventions,” Williams said. It’s the arena and support space for the arena.”
The Cox Convention Center has 84,000 square feet of exhibition space, well short of the 200,000 square feet the study indicated the city needs. The new convention center would meet that need and would include enough adjacent open space to allow for a 100,000 square foot expansion decades later when it might be needed. It would not have an arena.
Williams said the new convention center would have a proportional amount of meeting space, ballrooms and lobby areas.
Ongoing coverage: MAPS 3