Naming the "Oklahoma City Convention Center"
It looks like I started quite the community discussion on Tuesday with my column about the naming of the future MAPS 3 park being built south of downtown. I noted the lack of enthusiasm that exists for the Oklahoma City Boulevard and how the convention center being built also will likely be named the "Oklahoma City Convention Center."
Mike Carrier, who oversees the city's convention and visitors bureau, contacted me to add some context to why this choice of naming for the convention center is a worthwhile idea. He agreed to let me share his thoughts with readers:
"I read your article on the naming of the park. I certainly agree with you on selecting a name for the park that has meaning to Oklahoma City is important. But I also am pleased with the simple, well defined name for our new Oklahoma City Convention Center. Here’s some information to consider in looking at that new name.
My experience on this over the years is pretty simple. Being in a second or third tier market how do we stand out from the crowd and make sure there is no confusion about who we are? Without going online to find it, how many people can tell you where the CenturyLink Field Event Center is? Or the difference in it and the CenturyLink Center or the Century II Performing Art & Convention Center? Where is the Duke Energy Center, or the Suburban Collection Showplace, or the David L. Lawrence Convention Center?
All of these are centers that are in the same category we will be in relative to size with the new convention center but their names do little to help in selling their city as a place delegates or planners would consider going to.
But the Baltimore Convention Center, Charlotte Convention Center, Fort Worth Convention Center, Austin Convention Center, Cleveland Convention Center, Hawaii Convention Center, Tampa Convention Center, Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention Center and many more facilities around the country bearing their city name are in that same tier of facilities and leave no question or doubt as to where the meeting is being held. Civic pride is an important piece in this industry and keeping our name out front is a valuable tool in the competition.
Many of the very largest centers nationwide are also named after their cities – the Las Vegas Convention Center, New Orleans Ernest Morial Convention Center, Toronto Congress Centre, Anaheim Convention Center Phoenix, San Diego, Boston and more.
Certainly there are many centers named after local icons – the Walter E. Washington Center in D.C; the George Brown Center in Houston; Kay Bailey Hutchison Center in Dallas; Jacob Javits Center in NYC; and the Moscone Center in San Francisco just to name a few.
Naming a convention center is tricky. Today there are three Cox named and sponsored buildings in Oklahoma – two in Oklahoma City and one in Tulsa. Visitors get confused and show up in downtown Oklahoma City when they are looking for either State Fair Park or Tulsa. And the opposite also happens. As we sell the new facility to planners and their attendees what are we selling, a commercial brand, a civic figure or our city? When we attend trade shows to sell OKC we are indeed selling Oklahoma City and the facilities it has. It only makes sense that in spending $280 million to develop a new, first class convention center we should be branding it as The Oklahoma City Convention Center to the meetings world. It’s our living room and our iconic statement that this city is in the business, and we are serious."
By the way, the answers to the questions in the second paragraph in order are:
1. Seattle, WA
2. Omaha, NE
3. Wichita, KS
4. Cincinnati, OH
5. Novi, MI
6. Pittsburgh, PA