Convention conundrum

For years, Mike Carrier, president of the Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau, has said that a convention center hotel must open at the same time as the convention center or the city faces losing business. With construction on the $252 million project set to begin in 2016, a hotel developer needs to be identified soon.

At its March meeting, the MAPS 3 convention center subcommittee was presented three options by consultant Populous. All included a hotel in the 600-650 room range, but with different placement options on and off the site, which is just west of the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Todd Voth, principal at Populous, says the process to determine the possible placement of the two buildings has been long.

“There were somewhere between 25 and 30 different ideas that we looked at,” he says.

One
aspect of all the options is that exhibit space would be below-grade.
Voth says that would place loading docks below street level, essentially
making each side of the building a front door.

“We came to the conclusion in all of those studies that the below-grade exhibit hall was the best option,” he says.

Of
the options being considered, one shows the hotel on the south side of
the convention center along Robinson Avenue with the two buildings
connected. Another places the hotel on the north side of the site,
overlooking the Myriad Gardens and connected to the convention center.
The third, however, would place it across the street and require the
demolition of the southwest corner of the Cox Convention Center. It also
would take away exhibit space until the new convention center opened.

“That’s part of a bigger conversation,” Carrier says. “It would put us out of the convention business for a while.”

The
consulting team says that building the hotel offsite, either at the Cox
site or even south of the arena, would give the convention center more
room to breathe, with only a slight disconnect.

With
public money likely to play a part in construction of the hotel, the
decision lies with the MAPS 3 Citizens Advisory Committee and,
ultimately, the city council. Voth says as his team continues their
work, the focus is to create an iconic structure Downtown for visitors
and residents.

“This is your living room for not only your visitors, but your community,” he says.

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