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Members of the MAPS 3 convention center subcommittee voiced their objections July 26 to approve a plan for a $250 million convention center, when members said voters were told it would be a $280 million convention center.
Mike Mize, with ADG, discussed a MAPS 3 implementation plan for all eight projects, which voters approved at a cost of $777 million in late 2009. It showed the roughly 400,000-square-foot convention center, land acquisition, site preparation and other factors to bring the price tag to just over $252 million.
The $30 million in question was initially set aside to move an OG&E power substation if the site of the convention center had been placed south of the Chesapeake Arena in the Core to Shore area. When that site was scrapped in favor of a site just west of the arena, the amount was added to a $17 million contingency fund for MAPS 3 projects. Mize said for his efforts on convention center plans, he always worked with the $250 million figure.
“Where did the $30 million go?” Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau President Mike Carrier asked.
Eric Wenger, MAPS program manager, said the overall $777 million budget had not changed, and that the city council, which has the ultimate authority over the implementation of MAPS projects, has not yet allocated any of those funds. Wenger said as designs are drawn and plans are completed, along with tallying tax collections for the projects, some budgets will be more, and some less than originally anticipated.
Wenger said the $30 million was placed in the contingency category to be spread out among the various projects after it was determined the substation would not need to be moved for the convention center to move ahead.
Kirk Humphreys, former mayor and a member of the subcommittee, said if voters had been told that amount was to move a substation, the entire measure likely would not have passed. He said the implementation plan as presented would permanently take that $30 million off the table for the convention center.
“If we adopt this, we’re really cutting $30 million out of the budget,” he said.
Committee members Larry Nichols and Avis Scaramucci agreed that anything other than the full $280 million would be a cut, and city residents would not get what they thought they were paying for.
Ward One Councilman Garry Marrs addressed the committee’s concerns, and how any MAPS plans moving forward will ultimately be the decision of the city council. He said the council has not made a decision about the $30 million, and the subcommittee should stay on track with the dollar amount it was originally given to work with.
“I would stick with the fact that you had a $280 million budget,” he said.
After amendments to move ahead with a $280 million budget in mind, and to include additional reports about the site and cost estimates when the plan moves to the MAPS 3 Citizens Advisory Board and ultimately the city council, it was approved unanimously by the subcommittee.