Could an upbeat state song be part of Oklahoma’s secret for surviving and even thriving in tough times? The lyrics of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s tuneful “Oklahoma!” certainly do seem to ring true. The state that has weathered the Dust Bowl, countless tornadoes and terrorism is still “doing fine,” as the song says, especially in terms of meeting options in and around its largest cities, Oklahoma City and Tulsa.
Kudos to Oklahoma’s educational institutions, which wisely open their classrooms and auditoriums to meeting business. Central Oklahoma University and its programs for disabled athletes have made Edmond a go-to city for sports competitions for the disabled. Oklahoma State University’s loyal band of alumni schedule their meetings around the school’s weeklong homecoming. Even in suburbs Broken Arrow, near Tulsa, and Midwest City, near Oklahoma City, small colleges and universities have become big meeting sites.
Midwest City has also become a meeting destination in its own right. Devastated by a tornado a decade ago, the suburb’s recovery plan included the construction of the Reed Center, the only facility in the state accredited by the International Association of Conference Centers.
The University of Oklahoma also has a hand in meetings and conventions in Norman, a college town that is home to NCED Center, the state’s largest hotel and conference center, and a new Embassy Suites hotel and conference center.
For evidence that the state has hung on to its agricultural and Western heritage, one has only to peer into the Lazy E Arena in Edmond and the Expo Square complex in Tulsa, where hundreds of events as wide ranging as cattle shows, rodeos, bike races and trade shows draw thousands.
Signs of the state’s good health are apparent. In Norman, 44 percent of hotels, inns and guest rooms have renovated in the past year; a full-service Crowne Plaza is set to open in Edmond, and in Stillwater, hotel-room inventory has nearly doubled in the past year. In Tulsa, a casino hotel has expanded and the city is preparing to unveil its downtown convention center expansion in January.
Inside the Oklahoma Meeting Guide: