Sunday, September 21, 2008

What does "Big League City" really mean?

After all of the rhetoric and slogans and hoopla, now that we're a "Big League City"--so what? Do we magically feel better? Or ostensibly, can you even call us a big league city before a single game? Or for folks like New Orleans fans, will it really make a difference, or rather highlight where OKC fails to stack up?

As for the latter, I think not. OKC will stack up well compared to a lot of "big league cities" because the only thing that cities like Memphis and New Orleans have over OKC is too intangible to really make a big point out of.

As for feeling magically better, I think that we can all take immediate solice in knowing what our community is capable for doing for itself. Even during the improbable MAPS revitalization of OKC, people like the NBA were still saying no to OKC. The Hornets was not supposed to be as hugely successful. That whole debacle sure made David Stern's job a lot harder, although a lot more potentially rewarding as well. All of OKC's individual successes have been very improbable, and yet they share one more thing in common: being completely driven by community willpower. Which is a LOT more tangible than you'd think--just pull up exit poll data and compare to other cities faced with similar choices, like Tulsa.

As great as that all is, the largest good that will come out of this will start to become more of a factor once we get into the regular NBA season; Bricktown is going through a phase where it clearly needs a boost (which the last boost it got was probably the Hornets). Businesses prospered on game nights--and since the Hornets left town, we've seen less consistency in the newer businesses staying open for long. It's been harder for concepts to take off and share in the district's success.

There are a lot of reasons why this is about to change. It all has to do with more people downtown. We're beginning to see more residents downtown, and the downtown population--last I heard--was up from like 4,000 to 8,000 since 2005 or so. I anticipate that downtown's population will be around 15,000 come 2010. This means more stability for the various downtown districts because more of a local base; more "rooftops" in the neighborhood. Bricktown can become more like MidTown--which I am starting to think is more representative of downtown's own local scene than anything else (which may be why people notice a profound difference between the two).

If you live in a unit in the Regency Tower apartments or in Sycamore Square, are you more likely to go hang out in MidTown or Bricktown after work? If you live in one of the new lofts we're seeing going up in the Deep Deuce/Bricktown areas, where are you more likely to hang out after work?

Also, I think that there's an intangible benefit from simply having the NBA brand a few blocks away from anywhere in downtown. It adds more prestige to the whole scene, which may in turn increase the value of downtown housing and office space--especially during the mortgage fiasco. I think that the new Devon Tower will also have a very similar effect in adding to the prestige and value of downtown, and is a very tangible part of the new "Big League OKC".

Put simply, so far, "Big League City" has meant this. In the months and years to come, there is no telling what it will come to mean.

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