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Eight is enough



MAPS 3 convention center subcommittee members got a look at size estimates for the forthcoming facility at its March 1 meeting, as well as some of the potential sites.

And without a “headquarters hotel,” which may require some incentives from the city for development, connected to a future convention center, the project may be unable to live up to its full potential, board members were told.

Representatives from Populous Inc., a Kansas City, Mo.-based planning and design firm selected to oversee convention center plans, gave a presentation at the subcommittee meeting on what space requirements would be needed for the convention center and what factors the group used to weigh the potential sites.

The eight sites currently under consideration include the current Cox Convention Center site; a site northeast of the Bricktown Ballpark; the old Bob Howard Downtown Ford property; the lumberyard south of the current Interstate 40; the Producers Cooperative Oil Mill site; an area in north Bricktown; the so-called Core to Shore site south of the Oklahoma City Arena and the downtown U-Haul site just north of I-40.

According to the timeline presented at the meeting, consultants will bring forth preliminary evaluations on each of the eight sites at the March 22 meeting. A draft report on the convention center site is scheduled for April 26, with the final report issued by May 3.

At the meeting, consultants presented numbers from a March 2009 feasibility study commissioned by the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber that laid out square footage recommendations for exhibit halls and meeting rooms.

According to the chamber study, the total amount of sellable space in a new convention center should almost double the current space in the Cox Convention Center, and nearly triple with future expansion.

We have already had conversations with all of the major hotel companies in the country. They are all monitoring this project.

—Mike Carrier

Counting an exhibit hall, meeting rooms, ballrooms and space for support services, a new convention center should be around 585,000 square feet, according to the study’s calculations. A possible Phase 2 of convention center development would increase the space to 860,000 square feet. The site for a new convention center should be able to accommodate 1 million square feet.

The study said that a headquarters hotel anchored to the convention center would also be required in order to attract the desired level of business. The optimal size of the hotel would encompass 573,000 square feet, according to the estimates, and require about 874 parking spaces.

The $777 million MAPS 3 program does not provide funding for a hotel to accompany the convention center, and officials said a hotel financed with only private funds is unlikely.

A poll conducted in December 2010 by and sponsored by Oklahoma Gazette showed that 65.3 percent of those surveyed opposed a city-owned hotel, while 23.4 percent favored the idea and 11.2 percent had no opinion.

The scientific survey of 303 registered voters in Oklahoma City, conducted by live interviewers via telephone, had a margin of error of plus or minus 5.26 percent.

In 2009, MAPS 3 consultants developed two scenarios of how convention hotels materialize: The city finds a developer and works out an agreement, or the city actually owns the hotel and contracts out the management.

At the meeting, consultants told the board that it would be extremely difficult and risky to simply rely on private development to build a headquarters hotel.

Mike Carrier, subcommittee member and Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau president, said discussions about a headquarters hotel started two years ago.

“We have already had conversations with all of the major hotel companies in the country,” Carrier said. “They are all monitoring this project. They are very interested in Oklahoma City and what’s going on here because they’ve seen the history of Oklahoma City over last several years.“ MAPS 3 Program Manager Eric Wenger said City Manager’s Jim Couch’s office is working on a parallel project that would work to bring in a hotel.

“That’s definitely something that’s on the city’s radar,” Wenger said. “Although it’s not under the MAPS 3 umbrella, it’s definitely alongside, and so we know those two ends have to meet to make this project successful.”

Click to view a new convention center site analysis.

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