“Need” For OKC Conference Hotel Might Push Barons Out Of Downtown

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“City leaders are being advised the city can support an approximately $200 million, 735-room full-service hotel with multiple restaurants, lounge, meeting and ballroom space,” states Steve Lackmeyer of the Daily Oklahoman, “But at what cost? Consultants over the past several years have advised that Oklahoma City will need to provide at least $50 million in public financing for a large conference hotel to be viable.”

The rumblings of a new Conference Hotel and Convention space for downtown Oklahoma City have been ongoing for ten years. However, with the growth of the city, and the burgeoning business/dweller activity in Bricktown, the time has never felt more ripe for this addition.

As you can see above the cost is high, and the impact might not just be financial in nature.

In a recent video interview, Steve Lackmeyer makes mention of the Cox Center’s future. “Councilman Ed Shadid, who’s also running for mayor, he’s been a frequent critic of this idea,” explains Lackmeyer. “He supports the idea of supporting some sort of convention center. He understands that the Cox Convention Center is very outdated, and really doesn’t work for today’s world. But he, and a couple of other council members, have questioned the size the scope of this project.”

Outdated. Doesn’t Work. Today’s World. All signs that the aging Cox Center, current home of the Oklahoma City Barons, is not a possibility for long-term convention space despite it being just that for many many years.

The proposed convention space would be just south of the Chesapeake Arena which isn’t in the way of the Cox Center’s current location, but it does, however, point to the likely demise of the home of the Oklahoma City Barons.

The Cox Center is in trouble despite a 4.5 million dollar upgrade prior to the start of the 2010 season for the Oklahoma City Barons. Lackmeyer promises an update on the Cox Center’s future in the coming weeks, and we eagerly await his report.

The city clearly doesn’t want to support three downtown arenas, especially one that is aging. What’s interesting is that the new convention space is nothing more than that – convention space (with hotel/restaurant accommodations). The desire is not to build an arena that is capable of pro sports, let alone hockey, they already have that in the Peake. Again, this potentially leaves the Barons without a future home, and although this proposed convention project is in its infant stages, the realization that hockey might be homeless in the coming years (and I mean, many many years) is troubling.

What are the options? I like Eric’s thoughts on this. Move away from downtown. Build in the Adventure District of the city. This would, however, A) force the Barons to not rely on “bounce-back” ticket sales from parallel Thunder games, and B) require some cash to spent to make a continued investment in Oklahoma City hockey. The city isn’t going to fork over that cash, and that leaves Prodigal to foot the majority of the bill. Are they willing, is the question. With their portfolio diversifying in the next year (Energy FC to play next season), a full-time soccer stadium might be more of a wiser investment than a complicated hockey arena, regardless of size.

Each and every time this convention project talk comes up, I get nervous. It points to a city moving towards bigger and better, not smaller and substandard. Minor league hockey in a big league town? It works most places, but it isn’t working in Oklahoma City at the moment. Attendance continues to be an issue, although the numbers have gone up just a bit. 3,051 is the home average, it still remains nowhere near the league average well over 1,000+ when compared.

Fingers crossed that the city leaders find hockey a viable part of the growth factor in any part of the metro area. Unfortunately, I think the growth is regressing.

(Full article by Steve Lackmeyer)

3 comments on ““Need” For OKC Conference Hotel Might Push Barons Out Of Downtown”

  1. Quick comment: Nobody at City Hall is suggesting, or wanting, for the Cox Center to be torn down until at least after new convention center opens in 2019. And even with that, there is some talk about keeping the old Cox Arena intact, and just redeveloping the exhibit hall space on the west side and east side. It’s just very early to be speculating yet on the fate of Cox Center. I don’t see any reason for the Barons to worry about finding a new home for several years. Forgive me if my prior response caused any concern.
    – Steve Lackmeyer

    1. Steve, thanks for the comments. I too see no need for the Cox Center to be demolished UNTIL the new proposed convention space is a go. With that said, I don’t see the reasoning behind pouring more cash into the aging Cox Center. Exhibit Hall updates make sense, but only in the short term (less than 10 years). As you said, nothing official yet, and again, appreciate your time to stop and comment. Keep up the great work!

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