A week ago, the BOK Center earned the first overall pick in my Tulsa mock draft. Whether you were for the arena or against it, there is no denying its impact on Tulsa.
Check out a few of the sporting events that have called the BOK Center home: a preseason basketball game, a TU versus OU clash and the Globetrotters.
It is easy to spotlight the arena and lose track of the "other" events around town. The sports scene is no different. Thanks to the highly-regarded facility, "we" can field offers for sporting events that were previously unattainable for T-Town.
The Tulsa Sports Commission is a non-profit organization. The executive director, Mike Dodson, grew up in Tulsa and attended Edison High School before graduating from the University of Tulsa. He has a firm understanding of the regional sports landscape.
The TSC is a hands-on organization. They attempt to lure events from across the nation to our city. "With the BOK Center, it opens up doors that we haven't had the ability to pursue in the past," said Dodson.
Our city now showcases facilities ranging in size from 5,000 to 18,000. "There's a lot of choices for people that want to be in the middle of the country and come to Tulsa. We can customize an arena to their specific needs," he said.
When you combine the BOK Center with the Pavilion, TU campus facilities, ORU campus facilities and the SpiritBank Event Center, no wonder Tulsa is turning heads. "It's really about our customer and our client's needs," he said.
The Tulsa Tough cycling event is a prime example of the TSC working with a local organization (Tulsa Wheelmen) to promote Tulsa and drive the economy. It's also a great example of sports in town sans the big arena.
Tulsa's reputation for hosting epic sporting events is already in place. Look to the previous PGA Championship as proof of Tulsa providing the backdrop and support for a world-class event.
As much as I hate to keep stroking the BOK Center's ego (if the facility had an ego), you cannot deny the luster it adds to the city.
The Center drives inquiries. But the TSC can't rest on its laurels and wait for results. "We're visiting with event organizers and directors of national governing bodies around the country to see if we can match what they need in our community and bring them here at a future date," said Dodson.
The TSC is working on two not-so-secret projects: a Big 12 Tournament and a NCAA Tournament. They are constantly cultivating the relationship with both organizations. They've worked closely with the Big 12 for quite some time in hopes of positioning themselves for a future bid.
"We will continue to be active with both organizations so that when they issue their RFP (request for proposal) for an opportunity or championship event, we can respond," he said.
The mission statement on its Web site www.tulsasports.org states: "In 1993 the Tulsa Sports Commission (TSC) was created to attract and develop amateur sporting events and conventions for economic impact on the Tulsa community."
Most corporations change mission statements every other year. You know, keeping with the times. Change is good. The TSC commitment has remained intact.
"Our mission is also connected with quality of life and other sports ventures. We certainly try and support and promote sports activities in our community," said Dodson.
The current sports commission chairman is Mike Melega. The familiar name is also the general manager of your Tulsa Drillers. The previous TSC chairman? Tulsa Talons' co-owner Henry Primeaux.
"We have a small staff. We cannot begin to think that we can execute or host and event at the level we often work without a larger network of relationships and support in the community. That's what our commission and our executive committee and advisory counsel allow us to do," said Dodson.
The big test comes in the form of the 2010 C-USA basketball tournament. The guess here is a successful T-Town version of the C-USA tournament will be a precursor of events to come.
If Tulsa ignores the postseason tournament (see Summit League postseason tournament's final two years in Tulsa), the Big 12 selection committee will look elsewhere.
"It's very important that people understand these events have to be supported in order to have an opportunity to bring other events to your community. It's not about whether you might be an OU, OSU or TU fan, you've got to view this as a something that is happening in your own backyard," he said.
Think about it... Millions of Americans tune in and view Tulsa's arena for the first time. Will the energy be palpable though their high def broadcast or will they show a sparse, unenthusiastic crowd?
"When we're marketing this event, we will very much be talking about an overall community support of the Conference USA tournament so that we can be successful in the future with other championship opportunities," he said.
Finally, I am bound and determined to bring the UFC to the BOK Center. Knowing the probable answer, I asked anyway.
"It's hard for us to go from youth soccer, softball and warm fuzzy stuff like that to that kind of atmosphere. You know, there are a lot of neat things going on in our community and the casinos all have event centers and for the right demographic... that provides a lot of excitement. We would not go that direction because of our mission I don't think," said Dodson.
Looks like I'm back to square one in my quest for UFC action in the BOK Center. I'm taking my plight to the UFC's home. Viva Las Vegas. Stay tuned.
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