Downtown will not be home to a Larry Nichols Park — at least not near the Civic Center Music Hall.
Carol Troy, chairwoman of the Civic Center Foundation, reported Tuesday to the Oklahoma City Council that Nichols, executive chairman of Devon Energy Corp., asked that the foundation withdraw an application to rename the Civic Center park as a redesign of the park was hit with criticism.
“It was at Mr. Nichols' request that we take his name off,” Troy said. “We felt that Mr. Nichols has made an enormous contribution to our city and we wanted to do something we felt would honor his name. It was not anything he suggested or any of his employees suggested. It came strictly from us. The intention originally was that this would be a surprise and wiser heads prevailed. I would hasten to add Mr. Nichols was a reluctant participant in this.”
Council members Ed Shadid and Pete White noted the name change emerged as the plan to remove decades-old trees and historical monuments was initially met with widespread criticism. Four council members spoke against the plans by architect Rand Elliott and Tulsa-based landscape architecture firm PDG Inc., with no council members voicing support at the first presentation on Feb. 14.
The proposal by the foundation to rename the park emerged that week. On Feb. 28, the park was approved by a vote of 7-2.
Those voting “yes” included councilman Gary Marrs, who was the first to blast city staff for how development of the park makeover was rushed. Pat Ryan, another councilman who had been critical of the project, changed his outlook saying most of his constituents supported the makeover after previously reporting they were unhappy with the project.
Shadid suggested the name change was behind the sudden shift in support for the park design. “It suppressed debate,” he said. “There were community leaders who heard it was going to be called Larry Nichols Park and then decided not to come.”