Popular skywalk used to go to Thunder games closes, may not reopen
A popular skywalk used by thousands of fans to travel between the Santa Fe garage and the Chesapeake Energy Arena is closed and may not reopen.
The closure of the two-block skywalk coincides with conversion of the former Cox Convention Center into Prairie Surf Studios. The studio already is filming its first movie, and new signage is to go up on the building’s south facade next month.
The bridge was closed due to recent storm damage and is awaiting repairs. Assistant City Manager Aubrey McDermid met with representatives of Continental Resources and the Wyndham Grand (formerly the Renaissance Hotel) and learned they want to keep the walkway open.
It may not be easy to get done.
The city originally built the skywalk 20 years ago as part of a deal with the late hotelier John Hammons to build the Renaissance at a time when downtown was down to just one hotel. The Santa Fe garage was publicly owned and was a popular place to park for events at the Cox center and the Chesapeake arena.
The studio requires secured access to the former Cox center as part of agreements with filmmakers to provide a coronavirus-safe facility.
“The situation today is different than it was years ago,” McDermid said. “When we built it, it was a public asset to a public garage and to the convention center and arena. The city no longer owns the Santa Fe garage. The Cox center is no longer a convention center, it’s in private use. All the businesses connected to the skywalk are private uses.
“I don’t think the skywalk can stay open if all the existing points are closed down and Prairie Surf doesn’t allow access to the building,” McDermid said.
Questions exist as to how many people will be parking at the Santa Fe garage once the arena reopens to post-pandemic crowds.
Rachel Cannon, co-founder of Prairie Surf, said the garage under the studios is still being operated separately and will be open to the public, including VIP Thunder ticket holders on game nights.
The city also opened the new 1,100-space convention center garage, which is a block south of the arena and closer than the Santa Fe garage.
“The only benefit of it is to the hotel because their customers park in the garage and can use the crosswalk to walk over,” McDermid said. “If we keep it open, it will have to have some sort of solution that doesn’t allow access to Prairie Surf Studios. It's a complicated new problem to solve.”
Staff writer Steve Lackmeyer is a 30-year reporter, columnist and author who covers downtown Oklahoma City and related urban development for The Oklahoman. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a subscription today at oklahoman.com/subscribe.