Oklahoma City’s Adventure District is home to some big attractions, such as the zoo, Remington Park, the National Softball Hall of Fame and Science Museum Oklahoma. But development has been slow in the area, and some residents and business owners are voicing their displeasure.
The city incorporated the Adventure District as a Business Improvement District last year, but the Journal Record’s Brian Brus reports some people are growing frustrated by the slow pace of progress.
Resident Kim Edwards said the Adventure District is failing to live up to its name.
“With the area being so important to Oklahoma City, I think we need to take measures to promote it and find out if we can get people to invest in it,” he said. “Right now it’s stagnant. I’ve lived there 17 years. … I haven’t seen anything grow but the trees.
“When you see ‘adventure,’ you see excitement. And I don’t see that,” he said. “When we have softball hall of fame tournaments, it’s goo-gobs of people, but then they have to go downtown to eat.”
Journal Record editor Ted Streuli, in our weekly business conversation, said some people feel misled by the BID. Business are paying a small assessment to further develop the area, but so far nothing has happened.
“They were hoping for progress sooner than they are seeing it,” Streuli said.
The last major development in the Adventure District was the Tinseltown Movie Theatre in 1998. Streuli said hotel developers are not interested in the area because none of the major attractions lend themselves to an overnight stay.
“Those properties out there - the Softball Hall of Fame, the movie theatre, Remington Park, the zoo, the science museum and a few others - none of those really attract hotel visitors other than some of the softball tournaments and maybe occasionally some for Remington Park,” Streuli said.
A hotel could help spur other retail development, such as more restaurants. Currently, the only restaurants in the area are of the fast food variety.
Business district chief executive officer Tiffany Batdorf told the Journal Record that the Adventure District should rival Bricktown for tourist dollars. She has been making proposals and pursuing businesses to come to the area.
“She’s done a lot of footwork, just hasn’t closed any deals yet,” Streuli said.
JACOB MCCLELAND: Ted, one of the Journal Record’s reporters, Brian Brus, talked with residents and business owners in the Adventure District. What did they tell him?
TED STREULI: Well they told him that they’re a little bit frustrated with the lack of progress out there. That area was set aside as a Business Improvement District about a year ago, which means they’re all paying a small assessment to try to further develop that area. But so far, nothing has actually happened and they were hoping for progress sooner than they are seeing it.
MCCLELAND: Do resident and business owners there feel misled?
STREULI: Well, I think they do a little bit. There hasn’t been any significant development since 1998, which is when the Tinseltown movie theatre opened. They’d really, I think, would feel better if they saw something at least on the books sometime soon.
MCCLELAND: Why is the Adventure District struggling to develop?
STREULI: Well you know, there are a couple of reason. One is that some people told us that with all those properties out there - the Softball Hall of Fame, the movie theatre, Remington Park, the zoo, the science museum and a few others - none of those really attract hotel visitors other than some of the softball tournaments and maybe occasionally some for Remington Park. So none of those attractions really lead themselves to hotel developers wanting to come in, thinking they’re going to sell a lot of room nights. If they could get a hotel or two, that might in turn spawn some retail development and some restaurants, which is ultimately want they are hoping for in that area.
MCCLELAND: Are city leaders planning any action to spur more development there?
STREULI: Well, with the BID, there’s a city employee designated to run the BID and she is out actively making proposals and pursuing businesses to come develop the areas. So she’s done a lot of footwork, just hasn’t closed any deals yet.
MCCLELAND: Turning now to Chickasha, the municipal airport manager there has been on the job now for about 16 months or so now, and she’s made a bunch of upgrades and changes. What kinds of changes has she brought?
STREULI: Two of the biggest changes that Lena Smith has brought to the airport since she’s been there is she’s got the roads into the airport redone. That was a very expensive project, but she did it with just 10 percent local money, about $400,000. The other 90 percent was federal money that came in from the FAA. So that’s a really a boon for Chickasha. She’s also done some safety upgrades, fixed some runway lights and one other critical thing she’s done is gotten the fuel dispensing system working again so they can sell fuel.
MCCLELAND: Why is that so critical that they are able to sell fuel at the airport now?
STREULI: Well one of the big things that makes that important is that they get to charge a service fee per gallon that they sell. So that brings more money into the airport. That means more upgrades, both amenities and safety upgrades. Also, having that fuel available makes it a more attractive place for pilots to come.
MCCLELAND: Now she’s run into some resistance with these changes. What kind of resistance has she come up against?
STREULI: Well, she’s the first airport manager Chickasha has had for a while who has a background in commercial airports down in Texas. So she’s trying to bring the airport up to commercial standards. Part of that is enforcing all of the FAA rules. So there’s been a little bit of conflict about the FAA rule on what can be stored in certain hangars. They pretty much limit it to airplanes and equipment to maintain the airplanes. And a lot of those recreational pilots are accustomed to hanging out in the hangars and kind of treating them like a club house and they don’t think all of those FAA rules need to be followed to the letter.
MCCLELAND: We’ve been talking with Ted Streuli. He’s the editor of the Journal Record newspaper. Ted, thank you so much for your time.
STREULI: My pleasure, Jacob.
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