If the depiction of a Greenwood District location for a new Driller Stadium looks familiar, it's because you saw it here first -- eight years ago. The cover of the June 22-28, 2000, issue of UTW featured a drawing of a stadium sitting just south of the Inner Dispersal Loop, and northeast of the corner of Archer and Elgin. The proposal of a private initiative to relocate the Drillers to the site came from urban planner and golf course architect Jerry Slack and architect Gary Sparks.
Sparks, who designed the expansion of OSU's Gallagher-Iba Arena and the renovation of Lewis Field (now T. Boone Pickens Stadium), pointed out that the stands for the existing Driller Stadium could be moved. As Slack put it, "It's just bolted together." Reusing the existing structure would offer a substantial savings in construction costs.
Sparks suggested that the concession stands, offices, restrooms, and locker rooms, the field, and the fences could be built on the site the year prior. At the end of the season, the grandstand would be dismantled and reassembled at the new location. A traditional-looking brick exterior could be added to hide the steel underpinnings, as was done for OSU's football stadium.
The selected site is the best of the downtown possibilities. The Tulsa Development Authority already owns the land, so there won't be any acquisition cost, as there would have been with the old Nordam property near 5th & Frankfort. But a small windowless building facing Elgin is the only thing that will need to be demolished.
The land is where the tracks of the MK&T crossed the streetcar rails of the Sand Springs Railway. (The Sand Springs line traveled down the center of Archer Street, then cut the corner of Greenwood and Archer, passing west of the buildings there to head north on Greenwood Ave. and Greenwood Pl. before connecting with the Santa Fe and Midland Valley tracks. You can still see some rails in the sidewalks to the west of the Greenwood buildings.)
What wasn't railroad was mainly industrial. Several proposals to redevelop the tract -- a late '90s proposal by George Charlton, a more recent plan from the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce -- have gone nowhere.
The location creates a connection between the Brady District, the Blue Dome District, the remnant of historic Greenwood that wasn't demolished by urban renewal, and the OSU-Tulsa campus (which sits on the part of historic Greenwood that was demolished by urban renewal). Plenty of dining and entertainment options already exist within a quarter-mile or so of the new stadium, and there are plenty more old buildings offering a location for someone with an idea for serving fans going to and from the stadium.
Hopefully, the architects will learn from our mistake with the BOk Center and will include storefronts in the design along Archer and Elgin. Such an arrangement would harmonize with storefronts on the facing streets to create an outdoor space and a continuous pedestrian-friendly experience from the Brady Theater to the Blue Dome.
I'm pleased with the location and with the decision not to finance this with a general sales tax or property tax. Instead it will be funded with a special assessment on all property within the inner dispersal loop. The assessment is six times higher than the current assessment, which is used exclusively to fund a contract with Downtown Tulsa Unlimited's affiliate, Tul-Center, Inc.
Understandably, many downtown property owners are displeased with this arrangement, particularly the owners of residential and office properties on the opposite side of downtown from the new ballpark.
Nevertheless, Twenty First Properties head Paul Wilson, the foremost critic of the plan, has no business complaining. His land along Denver Ave. between the Inner Dispersal Loop and the Civic Center has been made immeasurably more valuable by the construction of the BOk Center, funded at his urging by Tulsa County taxpayers.
Wilson was a key member of the "Dialog/Visioning Leadership Team," the group that decided which projects would be included in the Vision 2025 sales tax package and how the projects would be grouped on the ballot. He, along with Karen Keith and Bill LaFortune, participated in debates on behalf of the tax.
Perhaps we could be more sympathetic to his plight if he were actually developing something there, showing some confidence in the BOk Center's ability to bring Tulsans and their disposable income to the west end of downtown.
Share this article: