A project that will draw visitors from across the nation and world to Oklahoma City is taking shape in the south part of the city’s downtown.
The MAPS 3 Convention Center, slated for completion in June 2020, is the cornerstone of the Core to Shore renaissance in the city.
“We anticipate it will take us to the next tier of convention centers,” said David Todd, MAPS program manager for the City of Oklahoma City.
As Oklahoma City grows, it needs to be on par with other, similar cities. The current center – the Cox Convention Center – can’t meet the need for some of the larger conventions, but the new center “will help us get there,” Todd said. This center will be twice the size of the current one.
What the convention center will look like
The convention center will be energy efficient and have a sleek and modern design that includes sweeping downtown views.
The 200,000-square-foot exhibit hall will highlight the ground floor, which is “adequate space for all kinds of trade shows and organizational meetings,” Todd said. It can also be divided into up to four flexible spaces.
Also, there is a 30,000-square-foot ballroom on the fourth level that can be split into three meeting rooms. In total, there is about 45,000 square feet of meeting space in the building, which can be transformed into 27 individual meeting spaces.
About one-third of the meeting spaces will feature glass walls to take advantage of natural light. The view will be of Scissortail Park, with blackout curtains to block the sunlight when needed – quite a contrast to many other convention centers that offer views of downtown buildings.
“The view will be unprecedented if they choose to use it that way,” Todd said.
Also planned for the convention center are informal meeting spaces, a kitchen, a potential café space, a loading dock, administrative offices and a balcony with an excellent view of the park.
In addition, the center will include a hearing impaired loop system that will allow anyone with a specially designed hearing aid to seamlessly connect with the PA system and make it possible for them to hear announcements “like they’re being talked to personally” by cutting out background noise, Todd said.
How the convention center fits into the area
The convention center will be next to a future Omni hotel, which is designed to support the center and will be finished in 2020 as well.
Plans include a plaza area in between the Omni hotel and the convention center. The pedestrian-friendly area will be near large overhead doors to the exhibit hall, which will allow people to view exhibits such as large machinery in that area during a show, Todd said.
In addition, Scissortail Park – a 70-acre park that extends from the main part of downtown Oklahoma City to the shore of the Oklahoma River – will be across the street from the center. The city expects to offer a lake, nature walk area, café and sports facilities in the park by 2021.
Construction of the center and park are being built debt-free thanks to MAPS 3, a $777 million capital improvement program. The program, funded by a 1-cent sales tax that was in place from 2010 to 2017, includes other projects such as river and fairground improvements, senior health and wellness centers and streetcar/transit.
“Three of the MAPS 3 projects are right in the heart of downtown – the OKC Streetcar, Scissortail Park and the convention center,” said Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt during the groundbreaking for the convention center in June 2018.
“With today’s groundbreaking, construction is underway on all three and dreams are becoming reality. As much as everyone talks about how far our downtown has come, the opening of these three projects will dramatically alter our city within the next two years.”