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Penny for your thoughts


Clifton Adcock January 12th, 2011

Public opinion is split about the location for the new convention center, the most expensive MAPS 3 project, although proximity to Bricktown is key.

A recent poll of likely Oklahoma City voters shows a majority of those surveyed do not support the city owning a hotel that would adjoin the future MAPS 3 convention center.

While likely voters are split about the MAPS 3 convention center’s location, it is important that the site be near Bricktown, according to the poll.

The survey of 303 registered Oklahoma City voters was conducted by SoonerPoll.com and sponsored by Oklahoma Gazette. The poll, conducted by live interviewers via telephone from Dec. 27 to Dec. 29, has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.26 percent.

The poll found that 65.3 percent of respondents are opposed to a city-owned hotel, which would adjoin the future downtown convention center. The poll shows 23.4 percent are in favor of city ownership and 11.2 percent did not respond or did not have an opinion.

To ensure the success of the new convention center, the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber has been a proponent for the inclusion of a combination hotel in the convention center plans.

No funds are set aside for a hotel in the $777 million MAPS 3 program, which uses a 1-cent sales tax to fund several projects including a 70-acre downtown park, a downtown modern streetcar system, senior health and wellness aquatic centers and the new convention center.

The convention center project is slated to receive around $280 million in MAPS 3 funds.

In 2009, MAPS 3 consultants developed two scenarios of how convention hotels materialize, Chamber President Roy Williams said, either by the city finding a developer and working out an agreement, or the city actually owning the hotel and contracting out the management.

Poll respondent George Lee, who said he was against city ownership, said he does not like the idea of the city getting into the hotel business.

“Any time the city owns something, it concerns me,” Lee said. “I think the workability of the thing is much better in the hands of the private sector. I don’t like governments — state, local or whatever — branching out and becoming part of the private sector.”

Williams said consultants involved in convention center planning claim cities must incentivize hotel ownership, especially in the present state of the economy.

By having a percentage of ownership in the incentive, the public entity seeks to recoup its investment as opposed to simply writing a check or giving away land.

“They (consultants) tell you either incentivize it or own a substantial part of it, and when you own a substantial part of it you do so with the intent of recouping your investment,” Williams said. “The average person would say the city shouldn’t own a hotel, and I think the city would agree with that, but the policy issue is: If that’s how you have to get it built and we sell it as an exit strategy, that’s a different thing than owning and operating a hotel.”

Meanwhile, poll respondents are split on where exactly the MAPS 3 convention center should be located. A MAPS 3 subcommittee and consultants are working on the convention center site selection.

A consultant recommendation for the convention center location is expected to go before the MAPS 3 convention center subcommittee this spring. Some sites have already been mentioned as possibilities, including a spot south of the Oklahoma City Arena and east of the MAPS 3 park, south of Bricktown at the lumberyard and the Producers Cooperative Oil Mill site or the existing Cox Convention Center site.

The location receiving the most favorable response is south of Oklahoma City Arena and east of the future MAPS 3 park, with 33.7 percent stating it as their favorite. Thirty-two percent prefer south of Bricktown and 24.4 percent said the best location is east of Bricktown. Meanwhile, 9.9 percent have no preference.

Despite being split on exactly where the future convention center should be located, the majority of those polled said the convention center should be in close proximity to Bricktown, with 38 percent saying it is very important and 23.1 percent saying it is somewhat important. Those considering it somewhat unimportant totaled around 11.9 percent, as did those who feel it is very unimportant. Around 13.5 percent have no opinion.

Poll respondent Margaret Taylor said she believes that wherever the convention center lands, it must be close to Bricktown.

“That’s where most of the activities are,” Taylor said. “It’s an entertainment district, so why would you want to put (the convention center) blocks and blocks and blocks away?”

 
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