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03-31-2008, 01:22 PM
State Fair considers additionRelated Information

By Randy Ellis
Staff Writer
Aggressive planning is under way for possible construction of a huge $30 million to $50 million exposition center at Oklahoma City's State Fair Park, said Tim O'Toole, president and general manager of Oklahoma State Fair Inc.

"Construction of an exposition center with at least 300,000 square feet of space would allow us to attract national trade shows, O'Toole said, citing large car, boat, street rod and RV shows as being among the events he would like to attract.

That, in turn, would provide an economic boost to Oklahoma City's restaurants, hotels and other parts of the local economy, he said.

State fair leaders are pushing for the city to include funding for the expo center in MAPS 3, which is in the idea and discussion stage. MAPS 3 would be the third in a series of sales tax initiatives designed to revitalize Oklahoma City. The first two initiatives were approved by voters and used to reinvent downtown, Bricktown and the Oklahoma City school system.

If an expo center is made part of MAPS 3 and voters approve it, construction could begin within five years, O'Toole.

Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, who has been soliciting ideas for MAPS 3, was noncommittal on whether an expo center should be included.

"It would be on the list of things we would think would be good ideas, but there is no shortage of good ideas, Cornett said.

A return on our investment'
On the positive side, Cornett said city officials like MAPS projects that drive economic development.
"We're looking for a return on our investment, he said.

Cornett said the State Fair Board has a great track record of using bond money to improve horse facilities at the fairgrounds.

That has made Oklahoma City a national and international destination for horse shows and has been a tremendous boon to the city's economy, he noted.

Cornett said the State Fair Board has great leadership and that he is confident it could do the same thing with trade shows if a new expo center is built.

There was only one downtown hotel when the Cox Convention Center was renovated 10 years ago. Now there are several and the convention center isn't large enough to meet demand, the mayor said.

The mayor said enlarging or replacing the convention center almost certainly will need to be a part of MAPS 3, and the cost of that project will go a long way toward determining how much money will be available for other projects.

Developing a large green park between downtown and the Oklahoma River, developing public transportation that might include some form of downtown rail service and making improvements along the river for recreational and competitive activities are among other MAPS 3 ideas receiving serious consideration, Cornett said. Making the grandstand at the fairground's race track accessible to people with disabilities is another problem that needs to be tackled, he said.

Inn tax could provide funds
One thing to consider is that the State Fair Board traditionally has relied on the hotel-motel tax to fund projects, the mayor said.
The city's hotel-motel business has experienced double-digit growth in recent years and is up 20 percent this year, he said.

Growth revenues from the hotel-motel tax would be another possible funding source for an expo center, Cornett indicated.

State Fair Park currently has more than 313,000 square feet of exhibit space, but it is spread out among six exhibit buildings, O'Toole said.

While the total amount of space would be large enough to handle many national trade shows, many don't schedule Oklahoma City because they want their exhibits to be under one roof so people don't have to go outside, he said.

In addition, several of the exhibit halls were built in the early 1950s and are due to be replaced, he said.

O'Toole said what State Fair Park needs is a large expo center that is flexible enough to be used for one large trade show or for several smaller exhibits.

He said he would like to see it flexible enough so that it could also be used to host basketball games and wrestling matches.

That way, State Fair Park could be used to host more regional competitions leading up to state championships that traditionally have been hosted at the State Fair Arena, O'Toole said.

Link:Fair park pushing for huge expo site | (

03-31-2008, 01:42 PM
I saw that article and wondered how this facility might compete with the proposed downtown convention center.

03-31-2008, 01:55 PM
Honestly, I think they would be two completely different in the "clientele" they would bring in. I think the State Fair would bring in more "Rural" kind of shows (ie horse shows, RV shows, etc) and a new convention center would bring in more "Upscale" conventions. JMHO.

03-31-2008, 01:59 PM
That has been the case but they specifically mention trade shows as a target.

I suppose they could mean farm equipment trade shows or something similar.

03-31-2008, 02:41 PM
Sounds like Cornett isn't putting this on his top priorities list. I agree with him, in that I think our hotel/motel tax should take care of the fairgrounds, their is still plenty of room to raise this tax and be under or at the national average (and at the same time provide mostly out of state revenue to fund the State Fair Park).

It does sound however that Cornett is serious about a new convention center downtown and light rail of some sorts! No surprise but good to hear publically.

03-31-2008, 03:33 PM
Hey it would never hurt to have TWO viable convention areas..... It would be nice to be able to host two at a time...... I don't think we can do that now, can we?

03-31-2008, 04:46 PM
The Cox convention Center now has a total of 100,000 sf of exhibit space.

The addition of 300,000 sf of space at the Fair Grounds would become a good mid-range convention space.

With the addition of a new convention center in downtown of 1,000,000 sf+, would allow OKC to provide the convention needs for and sized group or event. OKC would truly become a convention CITY.