POSTED ON DECEMBER 12, 2007:
If You Build It, Where Will They Park?
At this point, the answer to that question is a big, fat 'I Don't Know'
As the bustle of construction in the heart of downtown slowly forms into what will be the BOK Arena, Tulsans are eagerly anticipating the big-draw events it will bring to the city, both for Green Country dwellers' personal entertainment and for the outside money it will attract.
But, there's a dark side to those big-draw events that Tulsans aren't eager to deal with: traffic, crowds and parking shortage.
According to the Arena masterminds, though, those issues won't be so unmanageable.
"Parking is not going to be the problem people think it's going to be," promised Casey Sparks, the Arena's marketing director.
Citing a traffic study conducted at the start of the project, she said, "There are 10,000 spaces in downtown within 10 minutes walk to the Arena."
Beyond the existing downtown parking spaces, though, Sparks said there are no concrete plans for more.
"It's still up in the air, so we haven't finalized anything yet," she said.
"For those shows that have 15,000 or more attendees, we're going to be working with the Tulsa Transit system to do a shuttle to the venue," she added.
"That's still to be determined, though. There's not a definite plan yet, so this could all change. There are still a lot of logistics to work out," qualified Sparks.
Project Manager Bart Boatright said planners are also considering adding an access ramp to the western side of the parking facilities between the Arena and the Convention Center to ease the egress and ingress of traffic in the area.
While they're optimistic about the parking and traffic situation around the Arena, Boatright said it won't measure up to popular notions of what would be ideal.
"Much like any downtown arena anywhere, everybody wants to park right next to it, and that's not going to happen," he said.
That's the skinny on outside parking and traffic, but what about the inside?
Well, there are the 18,000 seats, along with suites, but the real cluster happens when all those people get hungry or thirsty.
General Manager John Bolton said the BOK Arena should fare better than counterparts in other cities in that regard.
"I think you'll find that the food areas are really large and expansive," he said.
"The concourses are so huge, space will allow for several different food court areas, lots of standup tables and a lot of portable concession stands," Bolton continued.
He said he expects many local restaurants and food vendors will be included in the Arena's offering of concessions, as well as "the typical fare of an arena."
That doesn't mean crowding and long lines will be completely foreign to the BOK Arena, though.
"Obviously, at intermission events, there are going to be crowds when everyone gets up to go to the concession area at once," Bolton said.
"When 18,000 people all want to get a coke at the same time, there's going to be a crunch," he added.
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