Within those preliminary proposed budgets was $252 million for the convention center, the largest and most expensive of the MAPS 3 projects.
The exact amount of money going toward the convention center has long been an elephant in the room, as city and MAPS 3 staff have operated under the assumption that $250 million would be used for the convention center, while those on the convention center subcommittee and other boards have stated that the public was promised a $280 million convention center.
The argument comes down to an OGE substation south of downtown that sits on the original site suggested by the 2008 Core to Shore plan for the convention center. This location, one of the sites the mayor previously endorsed, is just east of the future MAPS 3 park.
Very little was mentioned about moving the substation in the run-up to the MAPS 3 election in late 2009, but Mayor Mick Cornett (pictured) later said that $30 million was added into the convention center budget specifically to move the substation to make room for the convention center, and if the convention center was not going to go on that site, to move the substation away from the MAPS 3 park.
“The issue was, do we take that $30 million figure and create sort of a ninth initiative?” Cornett told Oklahoma Gazette in 2010. “That didn’t seem to fall in line with what we had done with MAPS or MAPS for Kids. Because the convention center … might sit on that site, I made the decision to put that into the convention center budget and increase it from $250 million to $280 million.”
However, the convention center subcommittee chose a different location just south of the Myriad Gardens, and the question of whether the project would still get the $30 million intended for the substation move has hung in the air ever since.
That did not go over well with the convention center subcommittee.
“If we adopt this, we’re cutting $30 million out of our budget,” said former mayor and current subcommittee member Kirk Humphreys.
“All that was told to voters was $280 million. Had we gone to the voters and said, ‘We want to spend $250 million on a convention center and $30 million on moving a substation,’ we wouldn’t be having this discussion.”
Eric Wenger, MAPS 3 program manager, said the Oklahoma City Council has not given direction on what to do with the $30 million, and that the money is not going away.
“It’s not been reduced or removed from the MAPS 3 program; it’s very much a part of the $777 million. It’s to be decided at a point appropriate as the council sees fit,” Wenger said.
Ward 1 Councilman Gary Marrs, who attended the subcommittee meeting and also sits on the Citizens Advisory Board, told the subcommittee it should go ahead with the $280 figure and let the advisory board and council work out the $30 million question.
“If I was this committee, I would stick with the fact that you had a $280 million budget. I would get the discussion of the $30 million away from this committee,” Marrs told the group. “Lord knows you’ve got enough people looking over this committee as it is, and I would get it into the advisory board.”
The subcommittee unanimously voted to amend the budget recommendation to move the $30 million out of the contingency/infrastructure fund and into the convention center budget and sent its recommendation of the budget to the Citizens Advisory Board.
Once the recommendation reached the Citizens Advisory Board, a motion by board member Michael Dover to accept ADG’s recommendation without amendment failed to garner a second, but a motion by board member Rusty LaForge to forward the recommendation to the City Council with the convention center subcommittee amendments, as well as other minor amendments by other subcommittees, was approved with only Dover dissenting.
The issue now heads to the City Council, although Wenger said the issue likely won’t come before the council until at least Aug. 16.