View Full Version : Adventure District

12-12-2005, 08:42 AM
Remington Park area holds jackpot in land for commercial development

By Steve Lackmeyer
The Oklahoman

Scott Wells can close his eyes and just see it.
A hotel. A tower on Martin Luther King Avenue, where guests check in, tour all of the attractions offered in the Adventure District and -- of course -- gamble.

With Remington Park becoming a "racino" -- a combined casino and racetrack -- its general manager isn't alone in hoping that more economic development will follow in an area dubbed Oklahoma City's Adventure District.

Situated along Interstate 44, Wells thinks the area has proved itself as a tourist destination, also being home to the Oklahoma City Zoo, Omniplex, 45th Infantry Division Museum, National Softball Hall of Fame, Tinsletown theater and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.

"In speaking to other business leaders, we know that the development of a hotel in this immediate vicinity would benefit us all," Wells said. "It's something I certainly want to see happen."

As general manager at Remington Park, Wells is charged with re-inventing the racetrack as a year-round destination. But as his predecessor, David Vance, learned long ago, wishes don't always translate into development.

Vance oversaw the park from its opening in 1988 through the start of its demise in 1995. He remembers the crowds that flocked to the park, and the anticipation that the surrounding area would be built up with new hotels, restaurants and shops.

Instead, they only saw a McDonald's built across the street. A dozen years later, Cinemark opened Tinsletown Cinema at I-44 and Martin Luther King -- but by that time rumors were already circulating about Remington Park going dark without casino gaming.

"I was aware of the enthusiasm over Remington first being built and the development possibilities being discussed in the area," Vance said. "I also was aware from the history of racing that wasn't necessarily the case. But whenever you have something like this open, people assume there will be a lot of growth."

During those early years, Vance saw property owners hike up their asking prices. And restaurants, gasoline stations and hotels that might have opened along Martin Luther King instead began popping up along NE 63 and Interstate 35 -- a few miles away.

Ben Kates, who owned several acres along I-35 and NE 50, was among those disappointed during the track's initial opening.

"We expected the property would take off, but it didn't do a thing," Kates said. "It's amazing that nothing ever happened around there."

Kates thinks the casino, combined with the city's overall momentum, will spark development this time around.

"It's an exciting new environment down there, and this whole town is going in new directions," Kates said.

For now, however, the only visible new development is along the 5000 block of Martin Luther King, where Manooch Kahkesh is building a 5,000-square-foot shopping strip.

Kahkesh, who has owned 89 acres along Martin Luther King since 1994, is hoping for development more aligned with the needs of area residents. A few years ago, Kahkesh completed a deal with Family Dollar Stores to open next to the McDonald's.

"We're hoping a grocery store or maybe a gas station will come to the area," Kahkesh said. "We're looking for restaurants and major retailers."

Summer Johnson, coordinator of the Adventure District association, said area attractions and property owners are looking to make the most of the casino opening. In recent weeks, the association attached dozens of district signs to light poles in the area, and a new highway sign advises travelers of the district's exit.

Vance agrees the casino visitors present a better opportunity for the area's development than Remington Park's racing fans. The casino visitors, he said, are more likely to include bus tours and groups interested in visiting the area's other attractions.

"The racing fans are almost transient in nature," Vance said. "People come and they leave. For a casino, people can come in for a week at a time and enjoy the area. It's an adventure, an extended adventure, and you don't have that kind of following with racing."

04-24-2007, 06:01 PM
FYI, the adventure district just put up a "gateway" sign into the district. I'll try to take pics sometime soon, but if someone else beats me to it, please post.