Oklahoma City’s youth, its wayward animals and its seniors were among the topics covered in MAPS 4 presentations during a marathon five-hour meeting today.
The second in a series of a four meetings covered a lot of ground. Also included was a proposal to replace the decaying Jim Norick Arena at State Fair Park, a structure about to enter its 55th year of operation.
After all four meetings, the roughly two dozen ideas will eventually be paired down by City Council members and could go before voters in December.
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New State Fair Park arena has $95 million price tag
By far the most expensive of the ideas presented in today’s second meeting was a new arena at State Fair Park, which would cost an estimated $95 million.
Opened nearly 55 years ago, Jim Norick Arena is well past its expected 30 to 40-year lifespan, State Fair Inc. president Tim O’Toole said.
“Time always wins,” he said. “It’s an old building. It’s had its troubles. Since 2010, we’ve been engaged in a methodical step by step process to wait for the day when a funding opportunity might arise to totally replace the building. And we’d like to replace the building on our time, not the building’s time.”
Former Oklahoma City Mayor Ron Norick also spoke on behalf of a new arena or coliseum.
“The bones are not good,” he said. “We’ve done everything we can. We’ve hired engineering firms to see if we can remodel or fix it, but it’s to the point where it’s not repairable.”
The new coliseum would feature 4,700 fixed and 2,600 retractable seats.
Known as the “Big House” to prep basketball fans, the current arena hosts state basketball tournaments, the state wrestling tournament and numerous equine events.
O’Toole said a new $540 million arena is about to open in Fort Worth, Texas, and Tulsa recently completed a nearly $100 million overhaul of its fairgrounds. He said those two locations represent the city’s biggest competitors for events.
O’Toole said if the arena isn’t replaced, State Fair Park could lose contracts for both equine and athletic events in the future. O’Toole said a new arena could provide up to $400 million in annual economic impact.
Youth center ideas unveiled
Oklahoma City Parks and Recreation director Doug Kupper presented a proposal for four new youth centers.
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A projected $60 to $80 million expense, the centers would provide opportunities for kids in an array of areas including athletics, arts and gaming.
Kupper said the city’s current facilities are inadequate both in terms of space and design. Many lack open spaces and modern amenities like windows.
“Our problem with our existing facilities is that a lot of them that were built in the 1950s and 1960s look more like the old city jail and older prisons and things along those lines,” he said. “There are no windows, they’re not attractive and they’re not family friendly.”
Animal shelter replacement proposed
While Oklahoma City’s current animal shelter is less than 20 years old, it’s woefully inadequate for the current mission, superintendent Jon Gary said during a presentation for a new shelter.
Completed in 2001, the current facility lacks kennel space for dogs and cats, and space for people to view them and conduct other business at the shelter, Gary said.
It also lacks a dedicated space for x-rays and exams. Gary said currently staff uses an old broom closet to give new arrivals an exam.
Gary said the current shelter only has space to showcase 37 adoptable dogs, but it regularly has more than 100 available for adoption.
The proposed 67,000 square foot facility would solve many of those problems. Gary said the current shelter was designed at a time when the city’s population was 30 percent smaller than it is today.
Under the proposal, the current facility would be demolished. A new shelter’s estimated cost would be $40 to $45 million.
Mayor David Holt asked if the current facility could be renovated, but Gary said estimates for renovation are about $25 million. He said a long-term renovation would also complicate regular operations.
“I don’t think we could accomplish what we want to without a new building,” Gary said.
More senior centers
Oklahoma City voters funded the construction of four senior wellness centers in a previous MAPS vote. Two have been completed, and two more are entering final design phases.
In MAPS 4, two more could be added if approved by the City Council for the final package.
MAPS programming director David Todd said the additional centers would offer many of the same activities currently available including aquatics, weights, exercise machines and arts and crafts.
Beautification needed, Holt says
Holt presented a plan to make OKC a little easier on the eyes.
The $15 to $20 million beautification plan would focus on the city’s entrance gateways, and the corridor from Will Rogers World Airport to the Oklahoma River. Interstate 35 and Interstate 44 bridges would also get a cosmetic makeover.
A $1 million investment in trees and three new pedestrian bridges in south Oklahoma City were also included in the proposal.