Back to the Old Ballpark
While the opening of Tulsa's new downtown ballpark, ONEOK Field, is now just two weeks away, the fate of Drillers Stadium -- the former home of the Tulsa Drillers -- remains undecided as county officials move to find a new use for the facility.
Tulsa County Commissioner John Smaligo -- chairman of the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority, which oversees the property at Expo Square -- announced the formation last week of the Driller Stadium Property Marketing Committee, a group that has been charged with soliciting specific business proposals for use of the land occupied by the stadium at the corner of South 15th Street and Yale Avenue.
The five-member committee is led by County Commissioner Fred Perry, who last year led the property study committee for the site. Perry said the committee would meet this week to decide on the contents of the packet it will send to those interested in submitting ideas for the site, but he indicated the information would include aerial photos, survey information, property dimensions and attendance figures for Expo Square.
"We're anticipating this could go nationally to people who don't know much about Expo Square, even though most local people do," he said.
Perry described the packet as something designed to grab the attention of potential users of the site and generate some ideas. Rather than issue an official request for proposals for the site -- a step that would require interested parties to submit a costly and more fully developed response -- Perry said his group is hoping this initial step will generate a broad range of possible uses for the property.
"What we want to do is get a lot of ideas back and then get a short list," he said. "We want to encourage a lot of interest and a lot of suggestions, so we can then narrow it down."
But he emphasized that anyone interested in using the site should keep in mind the committee is not looking for anyone to purchase the 5.5-acre property.
"When people hear the words marketing, they may think the property is for sale," he said. "That's not the case. The county would maintain ownership."
The other members of Perry's committee are Expo Square CEO Mark Andrus, commercial real estate broker Mike Parrish, Expo Square marketing director Amanda Blair, and Terry Walters, a representative of the surrounding neighborhood.
Perry hopes to have a packet ready to send out within 60 days. He said the group is in no hurry to make a decision about the fate of the site.
"We would hope that after six months, we would have a stack of them to look at," he said. "But I don't know what to expect, given the economy."
Perry indicated his committee will wait as long as it needs to in order to make the right decision.
"It may take all of 2010 to really get back a meaningful number of interested parties before we feel like we have enough to sink our teeth into," he said.
Having recently gained admission to the state Department of Commerce's Urban Main Street program, leaders of the Kendall-Whittier neighborhood are making progress in their efforts to form a nonprofit organization that will oversee the program.
Teresa O'Rourke, a local real estate agent who served as the chairwoman of the district's Main Street application committee, said neighborhood officials met March 12 and elected Elizabeth Howell as the president of the group's board of directors, while other Kendall-Whittier boosters were elected to other positions. The organization's headquarters will be located at Howell & Vancuren, a landscape design and land master planning firm located at 601 S. Lewis Ave.
The group should be incorporated within 30 days, O'Rourke said, though it could take much longer for the organization to receive its full 501(c)(3) status from the Internal Revenue Service.
O'Rourke also said the group has set a goal of hiring an executive director for the Main Street program by June 1.
In the meantime, the board of directors is in the midst of collecting on the pledges made by individuals and businesses in the neighborhood to support the program, which provides training and technical assistance for preservation-based commercial district revitalization. Kendall-Whittier received $50,000 in pledges and in-kind donations to help fund the program but did not receive a corresponding $50,000 stipend from the city, as commerce officials normally require for admission.
Commerce officials made an exception for Kendall-Whittier this year because of the dire financial straits the Tulsa municipal government finds itself in, but O'Rourke said they made it clear the neighborhood will be required to secure that funding from the city next year.
"We'll need that to keep going," she said.
Kendall-Whittier will be welcomed to the Main Street program at a banquet in Oklahoma City on Tuesday, March 30, O'Rourke said, along with Bartlesville. After that, representatives of the two new programs will undergo a Main Street orientation and training session led by Commerce officials.
O'Rourke said her neighborhood hopes to serve as the host site for that orientation but is still looking for facilities.
"We want a place in the area that has good classroom-type facilities that can accommodate up to 75 people," she said. That event would need to take place between April 12 and April 23, she said.
O'Rourke said anyone interested in offering space for the orientation should contact her at 583-0911.
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