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New convention center marks milestone for OKC

Tom McDaniel
Tom McDaniel

Our new, state-of-the-art Convention Center is 500,000 square feet with a 200,000-square-foot exhibit hall on the first floor, featuring operable walls for creating flex space. Approximately 45,000 square feet of meeting spaces are on all levels of the building. The fourth floor features a 30,000-square-foot ballroom and a 4,000-square-foot balcony that overlooks our beautiful new Scissortail Park.

What’s more, it’s opening completely debt free.

The Convention Center will spur significant, ongoing economic impact in our city from visitors and conventions and serve as a meeting space for residents. Those visitors will stay in our hotels, eat in our restaurants and shop at our businesses. Since the city’s operating budget is dependent on sales tax collections, these conventions will bring new dollars into our economy.

Joined by community members, city leaders broke ground in November on the Lower Scissortail Park. The 30-acre Lower Park will extend the park south to SW 15 Street, opening up the space for athletic events and pickup sports, with a soccer field, sports pavilion and pickleball, futsal and basketball courts. In addition, the Lower Park will feature an extension of the promenade tree groves, native gardens, a hollow, an overlook hill, a plaza and a children’s play area.

We didn’t realize it at the time, but Scissortail Park opened right when our community would need it most. The outdoor space has been a respite for residents and visitors to enjoy when other recreational options weren’t available. This investment paid dividends in our community’s wellbeing amidst an unexpected, dark period. I’m grateful for those who had the foresight to begin this project more than a decade ago and to wisely build a program that wouldn’t saddle us with any debt.

I give special credit to our mayors and city council members, past and present, and city staff, consultants, contractors and volunteers who provided guidance and leadership. Additionally, my colleagues on the Citizens Advisory Board and project subcommittee members have dedicated their time and significant insight over the past decade.

As we enter the final stretch of the MAPS 3 program, our next adventure is just beginning. In December 2019, Oklahoma City voters approved MAPS 4 with overwhelming enthusiasm, backed by a 27-year track record of promises kept and confidence instilled. With Citizens Advisory Board Chair Teresa Rose Crook at the helm, I trust we are in good hands as we enter the next phase of our city’s transformation.

Oklahoma City residents now have opportunity to marvel up close at the incredible work of the architects and contractors who designed and built our stunning new Convention Center. This facility will be a point of pride for everyone in our city and sends a clear message that we are a top tier destination. I can’t wait to meet you there.

Tom McDaniel is chairman of the MAPS 3 Citizens Advisory Board.