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Thread: Another chance to improve city

  1. #1
    Proactive Volunteer Guest

    Default Another chance to improve city

    Another Chance to Improve City

    By Ron Norick

    If you have driven past State Fair Park on Interstate 44 over the last 30 days, chances are you've seen hundreds of horse trailers filling the northwest parking area.
    If you are not directly involved in Oklahoma City's horse show community, you might not be aware of what these trailers mean to you. They represent an industry that brings more than $180 million to our city's economy, supports 3,600 jobs with a payroll of $66.5 million, and helps fund city services such as fire and police protection. Even if you've never ridden a horse, you are impacted by our city's vital horse-show industry.

    From October through mid-December, Oklahoma City hosts five world and national championship horse shows -- more than any other city. In the world of equine events, this is phenomenal. It is also what earns our city the title of "Horse Show Capital of the World." However, we are at risk of losing that title and the tourism dollars that go with it.

    The city-owned horse facilities at State Fair Park are aging and, without major renovation, will slip into deterioration. We can't expect horse show participants who invest thousands of dollars in their animals and equipment to continue to use substandard facilities. Competing cities such as Tulsa and Fort Worth have seen the economic value of horse shows and have built new and improved facilities to lure major shows away from Oklahoma City. We cannot let that happen.

    I have joined with Mayor Mick Cornett, the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce and other community leaders in a campaign to encourage Oklahoma City residents to vote "yes" in a Dec. 14 election that will provide a mechanism to fund improvements to the city's horse-show facilities at State Fair Park.

    A "yes" vote will moderately raise the current hotel occupancy tax in Oklahoma City from 2 percent to 5.5 percent. The majority of the increase, 3 cents, will be dedicated to fund $55 million in improvements to the fairgrounds horse-show facilities. The remaining half-cent will be used by the Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau to attract and market our events. I believe this is the right solution for our city because the tax is paid by travelers who use our hotels, not by Oklahoma City residents, and even with the increase, our hotel-occupancy tax will still be competitive with other cities in the region.

    While many other cities our size have grown stagnant during the past few years, Oklahoma City is in an incredible renaissance. Our unprecedented growth and momentum can be directly attributed to citizens who are willing to do what it takes to make our city the best it can be. Together, we have accomplished great things. Let's continue that tradition and spread the success of MAPS and other development to our horse show industry. Please vote yes on Dec. 14.

    Norick, a former mayor of Oklahoma City, is treasurer of the Committee to Improve OKC's Horse Show Facilities.

    Editorial printed from the Oklahoman 11/28/04

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~

    Horse show facilities need help, officials say
    By Bryan Dean
    The Oklahoman

    The money generated by a proposed Oklahoma City hotel tax increase would make State Fair Park the premier horse show venue in the country, supporters say.
    History of the State Fair Park horse barns and arena
    Renderings of proposed State Fair Park renovations

    Voters will decide Dec. 14 whether to increase the tax from 2 percent to 5.5 percent. The increase would generate an estimated $4.5 million a year, most of which would go toward improvements at State Fair Park.

    Mayor Mick Cornett said the renovations would help the city retain horse shows that bring in more than $180 million a year to the local economy.

    "These competitors have worked extremely hard and long hours to advance to these championships in Oklahoma City," Cornett said. "These events are like their Super Bowl, and we need to create that type of environment. I want them to have a lump in their throat from the atmosphere that's created in Oklahoma City."

    Renovation details
    Artists' renderings of the proposed renovations were released last week. They show an overhaul of the exterior and interior of the more than 700,000- square-foot complex of barns and arenas on the park's west side.

    Tim O'Toole, fair president and general manager, said exterior changes to the horse barns will be the most noticeable. The renovations would create a uniform brick-and-glass design.

    "They've been built over so many years, and there was not a consistency in any type of architectural design," O'Toole said. "Hopefully, it will take on more of a campus environment."

    It isn't just aesthetics that suffer because of the design and construction of the barns. O'Toole said the proposal would allow fair officials to level off elevation changes that can create safety hazards.

    "This plan gives us the opportunity to really redesign all of the barns with a consistent thought of how you flow from one barn to another and into the arena," O'Toole said.

    Another proposed change is a food court overlooking a 750-seat sale arena. Many horses are bought and sold during horse shows. O'Toole said with no permanent sales area, temporary buildings are used.

    State Fair Arena and the barns would be repainted and get new lighting if the tax passes.

    "We would be considered the premier facility in the country once these improvements are done," O'Toole said. "There is no doubt that we would be the largest facility for permanent structures."

    Fair officials said the improvements will keep horse shows from leaving and could attract new shows to boost the city's economy even more.

    "There absolutely is an opportunity for us to get even more horse shows with these improvements," Cornett said. "We probably will only be limited by the calendar. I literally think that we would be able to pick and choose and fill up the calendar with event after event."

  2. #2

    Default Re: Another chance to improve city

    When they pay for the facility, what does the tax fund then?

    Does it sunset? I haven't seen anything discussing the future of the revenue from this tax.

  3. Default Re: Another chance to improve city

    This is a no-brainer people. When you travel to any other major city, you can expect to pay at least 10% of your hotel and car hire charges in taxes. 5.5% should not even require a vote. Come on, lets get progressive here. . . .

    Not all taxes are bad, especially when the residents of your city wont even pay them!

    VOTE YES, for goodness sake!
    Oklahoma City, the RENAISSANCE CITY!

  4. #4
    Patrick Guest

    Default Re: Another chance to improve city

    Midtowner, from what I've been told, the tax will be similar to the 1/4 cent zoo sales tax....it will be a permanent tax that will continue to fund improvements at the State Fairgrounds, only this will of course be a permanent hotel/motel tax! Regardless, it's a win-win situation for us! We have extremely low hotel/motel tax rates right now...might as well raise them a little and reap the benefits!

  5. #5

    Default Re: Another chance to improve city

    Sounds good!

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