The Road to Margaritaville. On stage and off, the tall glasses weren't just for show.
Ok, they were almost entirely for show, but at least they weren't empty, instead filled with frosty margaritas. The glasses were raised in a toast at the conclusion of the March 19 news conference formally announcing plans for a Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Casino and Restaurant.
The approximately $250 million project involves a marriage between the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and the expanding Buffett brand, with promises made to bring sand, palm trees and even water to the banks of the Arkansas River.
"Since we don't have a lot of water in the river right now, we're going to create our own water feature in the form of a huge pool deck and entertainment area, including a beach bar down along the banks of the Arkansas River," said Pat Crofts, chief executive officer of Muscogee (Creek) Nation Casinos.
The project, with construction expected to take 18 to 24 months, will be built on Creek land near E. 81st Street and Riverside Drive, just north of the River Spirit Casino.
Most noticeably to drivers whizzing by will be a new luxury hotel.
"This 22-story glass hotel tower is going to be a beautiful addition to the Tulsa skyline and feature the River Spirit brand icon down the sides of the building," Crofts said, adding that the top floor will be reserved for an upscale restaurant "with views of the Arkansas River, the city of Tulsa and the cities beyond."
Mayor Dewey Bartlett and Principal Chief George Tiger each spoke about how the two governments were on the same page when it comes to river development.
Though funding remains a big obstacle to dam projects touted as capable of producing a steady water flow through Tulsa, Bartlett spoke about the importance of the Arkansas River.
"This might be the impetus that we need to have, that vision to realize the significance of what water will bring," Bartlett told a crowd of about 200 guests who gathered at the River Spirit Event Center.
In an interview after the press conference, Tiger said water is needed to connect the casino properties to the Creeks' Riverwalk Crossing shopping center on the western banks for the river.
Working to bring water to the river "is a priority," Tiger said, adding that he believes it could potentially be a reality "maybe five years down the road."
Take the Stand, This Land. A second lawsuit has been filed against This Land Press, this time by the Tulsa police officer at the center of April 2012 articles by the news publication that revealed squad car sex and the X-rated contents of the officer's personal laptop computer.
Shawn King, who was suspended from the Tulsa Police Department for 40 hours after the 2009 squad car sex incident and eventually demoted, is seeking more than $500,000 in damages in a defamation and invasion of privacy suit, filed March 15.
Along with This Land, King's suit names his ex-girlfriend, Keena Roberts, who reportedly handed over King's personal laptop to This Land. Also named in the suit: reporter Joshua Kline, editor Michael Mason, publisher Vince LoVoi, private investigator Eric Cullen and Cullen's business, Cullen and Associates.
The suit claims Roberts grabbed his laptop computer without permission, stating that King and Roberts lived for part of 2011 in the same 7,000-square-foot home but "did not however cohabitate as a romantically involved couple," instead having bedrooms "on opposite sides of the home."
King claims Roberts began searching in November 2011 to look for evidence of a romantic relationship between King and another woman, Christy Kellerhals, a Tulsa police officer who has a separate invasion of privacy and defamation lawsuit pending against This Land and Roberts based in part on her portrayal in the April 2012 articles.
The suit claims Roberts broke into "a locked closet" in King's "personal bathroom," and that "Roberts utilized and/or employed at least one computer forensics expert" to crack a password.
The lawsuit also delves into how King and Roberts' father, Jim Roberts, entered into real estate deals, but, as the romantic relationship with Keena Roberts "unraveled," she began "demanding monies and deeds."
"Specifically between January 16, 2012 and February 16, 2012, Roberts sent Plaintiff tens of text messages threatening to 'expose' him if he did not correct these real estate transactions with her father," the suit states. Roberts also went forward to the Tulsa Police Department telling an official she had sex with King while he was on duty, the suit states.
The suit claims Cullen was hired by Roberts and, to King's neighbors, falsely "told these families a child molestor[sic] and kidnapper was living in their midst, referencing Plaintiff."
The lawsuit also notes that an April 2012 This Land article "alleged Plaintiff sexually molested one of Roberts' children over a period of two years." The article reported Roberts' allegation as part of a report on Roberts filing a petition for a protective order, which This Land reported had details of these allegations. An investigation into King by the Osage County District Attorney was closed with no charges filed, the lawsuit states.
King is making two additional claims against Roberts: a claim of conversion, relating to the bypassing of passwords on a cell phone as well as the laptop, and intentional interference with contract, relating to her going forward to Tulsa police with her accusations
Measuring Downtown Dollars. Considering "this sleepy downtown we've had," real estate consultant David Larsen said the numbers caught him off guard.
About four years ago, he began researching downtown real estate projects, including sale prices when property changed hands.
"It was commissioned through the Stadium Trust for the litigation of the assessment of ONEOK Field," Larsen said, referring to thus-far unsuccessful attempts by some property owners to avoid paying ballpark assessment fees.
But the numbers Larsen researched tell their own story: approximately $710 million has been invested in downtown development and redevelopment projects within the Inner Dispersal Loop since the 2008 ballpark announcement.
That total is based on public announcements and information from those involved with the deals, Larsen said.
Also notable has been a surge in resale values. Larsen studied the deeds of properties purchased since 2000 but before the announcement of ONEOK Field.
"They've sold for an average of 70 percent more than what they were purchased for," Larsen said. By his tally, about 30 properties were purchased for approximately $25 million in the period he studied before the stadium announcement; later, they were sold for a group value of $43 million.
But what do all these numbers really mean? Larsen said it's positive for Tulsa.
"I think it could cause interest, create some more interest in terms of redevelopment projects," Larsen said, adding that the data could also lead more businesses to want to relocate to Tulsa. He noted that, nationally, commercial real estate values have declined by roughly 30 percent over a similar time period..
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