Colosseum proposed to replace Norick Arena at Oklahoma's State Fair Park
The Oklahoman's Steve Lackmeyer took questions from readers during Friday's OKC Central Live Chat. This week, Steve was joined by Tim O'Toole, CEO of Oklahoma State Fair Inc., who is hoping to include a new coliseum at State Fair Park in MAPS 4 planning. You can join the Q&A on Fridays at 9:30 a.m. and submit your questions about the happenings in and around downtown Oklahoma City. Following is an edited transcript of the chat.
Give us a basic rundown of what you are proposing to be included as part of MAPS 4.
O'Toole: The Norick Arena is 54 years old and approaching the end of its useful service life. The arena is the heart and the central location of the majority of the major activities that occur on the property.
Our proposal is to build a replacement colosseum next to the existing arena while it is still in use. Upon completion, remove the old arena and transition into use of the new one.
This started in 2010. We had our first structural incident with the arena. In concert with the City of Oklahoma City and their consultant structural engineers, we assessed the problem, put in the required repairs and set up a monitoring system to further evaluate the arena as we went forward.
During that process, we first studied the possibility of trying to do a Gallagher-Iba type of process where we repair the building while it is still in use.
That process proved to be not practical and extremely expensive both from the use factor, being disruptive to business in the arena, and from the nature of the style of construction used when it was built in 1964.
We embarked on a study to determine the best location for a new facility while not disrupting the ongoing operations in the existing arena. That study, which Oklahoma State Fair Inc. paid for, determined the best location was the current site being proposed in MAPS 4.
We then had conversations with the city and felt it was best to devote some resources to designing and costing the new facility by hiring consultants through the city's RFP process.
The consultant, ADG and their arena partner, Populous, issued their preliminary report, a 35% design report in November 2018 that estimated it will have a base cost of $95 million.
Seating capacity will be about 8,000 seats, 4,700 in the main bowl, and 2,600 seats on a second level that are retractable seats. It's an open concourse design where people can move around on the main seating area where people can access concessions, amenities and restrooms.
How many seats does the current arena hold?
When it was first designed, before ADA, it held 10,000. Now, with changes to the building for ADA compliance and camera wells and other needs since, the seating is down to about 8,500.
How do we know there is a financial need if the Fair Board does not open their books to the public? If they get public money and tax dollars shouldn't we know? Could they use their bonding capacity to borrow the money and pay it back using the hotel/motel tax money they get?
O'Toole: Oklahoma State Fair Inc.'s financial records have been public with the City of Oklahoma for over 20 years. They are filed with the city annually when the audit is presented and accepted by the Oklahoma State Fair Inc. board.
It's a certified financial audit. It's required in our lease agreement with the City of Oklahoma City.
We do not receive any public money. The hotel/motel money is directly deposited into the City of Oklahoma City's accounts. Every expenditure of that money goes through the City of Oklahoma City purchasing process and is ultimately approved by the city council. So all of those expenditures are public record.
State Fair Inc. does not have that type of bonding capacity. I assume the bonding capacity you are referring to is through the hotel/motel tax.
The last bond indenture statement filed with the city in February said the hotel/motel tax indebtedness was about $77.5 million as of June 2017. In a course of the year, the indebtedness was reduced by $2.7 million to $74.8 million.
It has been discussed that when there is capacity available to supplement the MAPS 4 allocation to build the colosseum. Keep in mind, architectural fees have already been paid from the hotel/motel tax — about $3.4 million to date.