As planning continues for the MAPS 3 projects, the exact cost of the new convention center has been the focus of recent debate. Now that a City Council resolution has determined the amount of funds allotted for the project, focus is returning to the center itself and the benefits it will bring to Oklahoma City.
"Moving forward, it's time to focus on what we need to do to succeed," said Mike Carrier, president of the Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau. "We need to design it correctly and then figure out how we make it work within our budget."
The current Cox Convention Center continually ranks low among other competitive and comparable facilities and markets such as Indianapolis, Kansas City, Nashville and Fort Worth. Among 16 facilities in 14 markets, Oklahoma City ranks 16th in exhibit space, 12th in meeting space, 14th in ballroom space and 13th in total sellable event space. Due to the lack of space, Oklahoma City is losing business each year.
"Anytime your convention center is dark due to move-in and move-out dates, you are losing revenue and hotel nights," said Carrier. "The planned size of the new convention center will allow us to host larger conventions than in the past, while also allowing for convention overlap, making us a more competitive market."
The total sellable space will increase from Cox Convention Center's 153,600 square feet to 258,000 square feet planned.
"The new convention center will put Oklahoma City in the middle of the pack as far as size," said Carrier. "The quality of our space is where Oklahoma City has the opportunity to shine."
The convention center subcommittee has recommended the old Ford dealership site west of the Chesapeake Energy Arena to the MAPS 3 Advisory Board. The site recommendation will be presented to City Council for final approval in early November.
"We are excited about the direction in which we're headed," said Tom McDaniel, chairman of the MAPS 3 Citizen Advisory Board. "The site we have chosen gives us the opportunity to expand in the future, which is the number one challenge of our current convention center. Having a facility capable of competing with cities such as Louisville and Austin will move Oklahoma City higher on the list of convention destinations for meeting planners around the country."