Monday, August 25, 2008

Haven't forgotten about the BOK Center

Amidst the rush of Devon Tower euphoria that must be covered on this blog, I have still not forgotten about you, Tulsa. I recommend everyone start following the finishing touches on the BOK Center, because the thing gets more dazzling by the week. And yes, it still has more room to get more razzle dazzle. Just wait for the streetscape to open up completely around surrounding streets (i.e., Denver Avenue, which I'm not sure if it's finished yet or not), or further down the line the hotel/mixed-use redevelopment of the current City Hall site.

But lately, the shine has been put on the metal exterior, the 40,000-foot glass wall is up, and now the nightlighting elements in the glass wall are turned on. Personally I severely underestimated how the arena would look from the back, especially with that view of the Tulsa skyline peering over it. I also underestimated how the glass wall would be visible from all around downtown, especially all lit-up at night. Take a look further down.

For those of you not familiar yet with the BOK Center, get familiar with it. It's going to become one of Oklahoma's premier places to catch a concert or a major event, and potentially down the line, some major league action (just not in the NBA, which went to OKC, but possibly AFL or NHL). To view some more multimedia of the BOK Center, check this Tulsa World site. The Cesar Pelli masterpiece will be a 550,000 SF facility with 18,500 seats for the arena format, and can do over 19,000 for a center-stage concert. For a downtown centerpiece, the project came in well under $200 mil, which is overall less than OKC's Ford Center would be built for (including $121 mil in upgrades). It will at least revolutionize the way in which Tulsans feel about their Downtown.

While Tulsans may have balked at the construction cost increases and the overall cost initially, it is such a small penny to pay for what this arena will do for their city. When OKC's first MAPS project, the Bricktown Ballpark opened, all of OKC completely shifted from being disgusted with MAPS to being completely in love with MAPS and all-things OKC. The pride that Tulsans feel is nothing yet, but as soon as this facility opens, it will give T-Town a new perspective on their city. It will make them realize how much they love their city, how unique it is, and how much potential it has to be great. It will do everything that the Bricktown Ballpark did for OKC and probably more.

-Photos from and dscott on Flickr


Michael Bates said...

I appreciate your interest in Tulsa, but please know that Tulsans are already proud of our city for many reasons, including our great neighborhoods and our historic buildings. What Tulsa entrepreneurs are doing to preserve, restore, and reuse older buildings in and near downtown for residences, restaurants, and retail will do far more than the BOK Center will to make central Tulsa a lively place once more.

I get the excitement over shiny new things, but the fundamentals of creating a lively urban space can't be ignored. The BOK Center is designed to be admired at a distance, but it creates an inhospitable environment to those passing by on the street.

Regarding your last paragraph: Hasn't Bricktown itself done more to change the way people feel about Oklahoma City and its downtown than the ballpark and the Ford Center? I've never been to either sports venue, but I almost always venture down to stroll around Bricktown when I'm in the area.

Walker, Downtown Ranger said...

I don't intend to run amok with comparisons between Tulsa and OKC, but you have a classic example of two bipolar cities, one where the citizens believe in local government and in the city core, another where the citizens are uncomfortable with both. Anyone that is pleased with the slow-pace and one-small-project-at-a-time development of Downtown and Midtown Tulsa is placant over the rift between suburban Tulsans and urban Tulsans. It's a rift exemplified here:

"If a working family in Councilor Turner's district in North Tulsa has to subsidize one more unnecessary pet project of the midtown money belt, I just might give up hope on this great city."

This person opened with paragraphs about what a great project and idea the river development is and how he wishes it go forward, only, without his pitching in. You see, when Tulsans remain in this thought train where private developers are to receive no help in undertaking risky projects that would massively benefit the public, Tulsa will remain less competitive when it comes to luring big projects.

It's incorrect that Bricktown turned OKCers pro-downtown. Bricktown wouldn't have been possible if venues hadn't started to entice suburbanites into the city core. The public in OKC was disgusted with MAPS for a time, and the Ballpark was the first project to open. The public fell in love with the Ballpark and suddenly MAPS was okay, and so was investing in the city core. Bricktown was transformed from being a fledgling entertainment distrct built up by daring entrepreneurs into one built up by a vested public interest, which is what makes Bricktown so great today.

It's interesting to ponder whether the BOk Center was built to the human scale. Whether it is or isn't, I view things like that in a classical sense, because we all know the Romans definitely knew how to build grand cities. If Rome would have it, it must be okay for a city to have it. The BOk Center is a Colisseum of glass and steel that will bring the public downtown so that there are people for all the retail and restaurants opening up now. Maybe some day when America is long gone, the BOk Center will stand out as a beautiful masterpiece of our time's engineering. And thanks much for the thoughtful comment, Michael.