Is The Cox Center In Long-Term Plans For The Barons?

Checkers vs. Oklahoma City Barons 1-11-13
Photo by Rob Ferguson.

Much has been said about the Oklahoma City Barons attendance. Some positive, but a lot of it negative. Warranted? I don’t really think so. I’d like to think that a team like the Oilers would care a lot more about the results on the ice, than the results in the box office, especially when it’s no secret that the players love the area and playing here. But let’s face it, when you’re across the street from the Oklahoma City Thunder and a block from the downtown entertainment district that also includes a Triple-A baseball diamond, there are many other things fighting for the dollar in the area.

There has been talk of a new convention center being built in downtown OKC with the passage of the latest MAPS (Metropolitan Area Projects) measure, and many think that it is set to replace the Cox Convention Center, current home of the Barons. The Cox is a bit unique for a convention center in that it has an arena built in, and the meeting rooms and conference rooms are built around said arena.

Ground broke for the building in 1970, officially opened in 1972, and was the go-to arena in Oklahoma City. Over the years, it has served as the home of the Oklahoma City Blazers (Central Hockey League), Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz (Af2 arena football), and other sports events, as well as housing four NHL games (regular and preseason) through its existence before becoming the home of the Barons in 2010. Able to seat 15,000 fans for concerts, that’s cut down to 13,399 for hockey though the Barons curtain off half of that to have a capacity of 7,500. Despite receiving $4.5 million in upgrades prior to the Barons arrival, it’s becoming more obvious that the building may be too big and is becoming too old, and may not even be available in the coming years should they decide to replace it. So that brings up, do you build a new arena, where do you put it, and would it be viable?

Let’s start with the new arena: In the three years of the Barons, many Oklahoma City fans have gotten the chance to travel south to Cedar Park, Texas to watch the team play the Texas Stars in their building, the Cedar Park Center. The CPC broke ground in 2008 and opened a year later to begin housing the Stars, and also houses the Austin Toros NBA Developmental League team. The CPC holds just shy of 7,000 seats for hockey and increases to a max of 8,500 for concerts and other events. Many fans have expressed that a building of this size would be a great thing for the Barons to be in. I happen to be one of those, and have done some thinking on where to put it.

One of the great things about where downtown is located is that it’s mostly-central to the Oklahoma City metro area, and that’s one thing you’d hate to lose in finding a new area. If it were to be built in the north metro area near Edmond, people from the south metro in Norman would have a 30+ minute drive. Norman would be a tough area as it houses the University of Oklahoma, and would be a complete mess on football game days (not to mention my pet peeve of naming a team after a city that they’re not technically playing in). So in my proposal, I present to you Remington Park.

Remington Google Maps

Remington Park was opened in 1988 and is currently owned by the Chickasaw Nation. Nestled closely to the I-35 and I-44 interchange, it moves the arena north of the downtown area, but keeps it in an entertainment district. Remington has the horse racing from March through December, but it’s also close to the Oklahoma City Zoo, the Science Museum of Oklahoma, and the Softball Hall of Fame. But what makes Remington an ideal spot is their land area that is currently occupied by a huge parking lot, and some empty space as well on the northwest side of their property. Wondering just how much of a possibility it could be, I took an image from Google Maps of the Cedar Park Center and added it to that corner of the Remington property.

CPC on Remington

It really shows the size of the parking lot when you’re able to fit an arena the size of the CPC in that area (and yes, that is to scale). With the size of the un-used land, it almost makes you wonder if putting in an arena hasn’t been kicked around by the Park’s management. With some re-arranging, it’d be easy to put one in without much having to mess with the parking lot all that much.

Now, is it viable? Would it have the tenants and other events to make it worth it? I think it would. The local Zoo Ampitheatre has been the victim of noise complaints over the last few years when concerts go too long into the night, and recently came under new management that has almost all but closed it. With those events to make up, a new arena would be a prime destination. With the Barons as their first tenant, it could easily pick up another minor pro sport such as lacrosse or indoor soccer. I doubt an NBA D-League team would be possible with the Thunder already in town, but you never really know sometimes.

The main hang-up I see here is who pays for the building? Obviously Remington Park and the Chickasaw Nation would own the building, but could someone like Prodigal or the Oilers reach out and add some money to move things into the fast lane with it in exchange for a stake in the ownership or even just a partnership? I think it’s an avenue worth pursuing with the way things are going in the ever-growing Oklahoma City market.