Really, the Cox Convention Center in downtown isn't a bad facility. The front part of it is immaculate, after having been recently renovated, it has an attractive modern interior, and the facades facing Sheridan and Reno are pretty decent. The Cox Center has served OKC well for.. 40 years. The Cox Center was renovated as a part of the original MAPS program at a cost of $60 million. The interior puts to great use indigenous materials such as granite and limestone with subtle Native American graphics.. not overdone, but a very elegant modern interior design. The center, although small, is of high quality. It has allowed OKC to be very, very competitive for small conventions.
How small is the facility though? The overall facility is actually 1.1 million square feet, which is GREAT. However most of that is an arena that we only use for Ford Center overflow (which is an extremely strategic use we should continue to offer for events like the Big 12 Bball Tourney). The Myriad Arena seats a total of 13,846 for basketball and 15,634 for concerts. It only has 100,000 sf of exhibition space (only 80,000 of which can be made contiguous), plus a 25,000 sf ballroom and 21 meeting rooms..doesn't give a sf total for the meeting rooms. The Cox just recently got this newfangled concept called "WiFi" despite it being part of the 2001 renaming agreement with Cox. So, only..7 years late. The current center brings in $30 million to the economy, including 400 jobs totaling $10 million in salaries.
Since the Cox was renovated, OKC's convention business has shot up. One study that came out a year ago announced that OKC saw the largest % increase in convention business over a 5-year span. The #2 city was Omaha, which we'll discuss in the future. Now the Cox's limited convention space is holding back OKC's ability to compete for larger conventions. The largest conventions that we do have, which is usually Pre-Paid Legal's annual meeting, have the Cox bursting at the seams. To put OKC's convention industry growth in perspective, just single out a single month last year, March of 2008: We had 15,000 people here for the Pre-Paid Legal meeting, 5,000 in town for the American Choral Society convention, about 10,000 for a high school FFA convention, and dozens and dozens of thousands came for the Big 12 basketball tourney..all in the span of the shortest month of year. That's HUGE economic development. According to a OKC CVB report, the hotel bookings for March were 28,000 rooms above the previous March.
A recent study commissioned by the Chamber of Commerce indicated that OKC needs at least 200,000 sf of total exhibition space. The Cox can not be expanded because there is no room to expand it, being in the core of downtown, and its footprint isn't conducive to another expansion anyway. The MAPS 3 convention center would have about 550,000 sf of space total, with 200,000 devoted to exhibition space. So even though it's about half the size of the Cox, it would have double the real convention space. By keeping the Cox that gives us about 300,000 sf of exhibition space in downtown.