A committee charged with coming up with a new use for Drillers Stadium at Expo Square has recommended to the county that a "Request for Interest" document be sent to potential developers of the property in order to determine what kind of market exists for the site that was the longtime home of Tulsa's minor-league baseball team.
County Commissioner Fred Perry, who serves as chairman of the Expo Square Driller Stadium Committee, said the purpose of the RFI is to garner feedback from those who might have an interest in putting the property to use.
"Let's let the free market do all the market surveys and let them tell us what's out there," he said.
The 20-person committee, which has been meeting since the summer, forwarded its recommendations to the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority, commonly known as the Fair Board, on Dec. 15 in a two-page document. That document recommends that the management of Expo Square immediately determine a rental/lease pricing structure for the ballpark, which has been home to the Tulsa Drillers since the 1980s. The team will open play in its new home at downtown's ONEOK Field in April.
"The first step is to put a 'For rent' sign on it," Perry said. "That's not rocket science to figure that out."
As for the ballpark's long-term future, the committee recommended that the Fair Board see what kind of interest there is in the 6.07-acre site by sending out the RFI document to companies and organizations that might want to develop the property.
Perry emphasized that the RFI document differs from a traditional Request for Proposals, which he said is expensive to develop--somewhere in the neighborhood of $25,000. The committee's goal with the RFI, he said, is to encourage conceptual ideas from interested parties.
"We want to encourage developers or amusement park owners or hotel chain owners, we want to encourage them to send us their idea," he said.
Once those concepts have been received and sifted through, according to the document, organizations on a short list of RFI respondents would be sent an RFP.
Any development would need to meet a series of objectives, according to the recommendations, including a stipulation that ownership of the property remains with the authority. Any demographic studies or projections would have to be done by the entities submitting the proposals, and any venture on the site would have to generate revenue for the authority in order to help insure the long-term financial stability of Expo Square.
Perry's committee also recommended that the Fair Board adopt a set of master principals related to the site. Those include preserving the primary purpose of the site to serve as a regional public amenity; considering only the highest and best uses that are compatible with and promote the greater good for the general population; encouraging a wide range of uses to create an active, vibrant community gathering place; encouraging the notion that all uses should serve, complement, be compatible with and part of adjoining neighborhoods, as well as the greater community; and that all redevelopment/improvements should contribute to an overall vision of Expo Square.
"We're looking for something that would benefit their investment, benefit Expo Square and benefit the public," Perry said. "As long as it meets the master principals, we want them to send us their plan."
Perry's committee previously had conducted a public survey to help determine what purpose citizens wanted the ballpark site to serve. Of eight general areas of use listed on the survey, the top three selected by respondents were a multi-use sports complex, public events/festivals/concerts facilities and development of entertainment options. Those were followed by development of retail businesses and open space/park.
If the property were left in its current state or modified, the highest number of respondents indicated they would like to see it used for soccer, while baseball and other sports also were mentioned.
If the ballpark were torn down and the property developed, the survey indicated most respondents still favored the idea of using it for sports, but others also wanted it used for outdoor concerts or festivals with the possibility of an amphitheater. Cycling enthusiasts suggested that a velodrome be constructed on the site.
Two-thirds of respondents indicated they thought that whatever use is chosen for the property, it should be self-supporting, though 70 percent indicated they would not oppose some form of pubic financing such as bonds, as long as there was no tax increase and taxpayers were paid back from the proceeds.
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