Downtown Oklahoma City sure looks a lot different than it did eight years ago. Back in 2012, the Skydance Bridge opened, visually signaling a new era in southern downtown development, but the most dramatic visual changes only recently took place with the construction of the largest MAPS 3 projects which began in 2017.
With COVID-19 numbers bouncing back up, it may not be the best time to open a new convention center and hotel, but it’s good to know we will be ready for visitors when the appropriate time comes. The MAPS 3 Convention Center and Omni Hotel are going to help drive our economy for decades to come. The estimates predict a $750 million impact throughout the next 10 years.
There is also a new 1,100-space parking garage to serve not only the adjacent convention center and Omni, but also Scissortail Park, Chesapeake Energy Arena and Bricktown.
Next to the Omni, a new 8-story apartment building, Boulevard Place, will break ground soon with 253 apartments. Meanwhile, to the west, Strawberry Fields is attracting investors with major projects hoping to be announced in 2021. To the south, Scissortail Park’s long-awaited phase two is taking place, which is extending the green space beyond I-40 and down to the river.
One other thought as we ponder a new convention center during a time in which travel is not encouraged, one that should put a much-needed smile on your face, is the fact that we are not worried about paying off hundreds of millions of dollars of debt — and that’s all thanks to the business model that is MAPS 3. Because we paid cash, no debt could ever accrue. As far as I know, we are still the only city that is building projects like this without carrying a single note.
I challenge you to Google these four words: Convention Center, Stadium, Arena and Debt. You will see that almost every other city in the country is trying to figure out how to pay for a facility that is not open for business and not generating income, positioning Oklahoma City as the innovative thought leader we all knew it always had the potential to be.