Obliterated by a devastating tornado 10 years ago, Midwest
Oklahoma City this year celebrates the first decade of what has been described as “a boat ride to nowhere,” its water taxi rides on the Bricktown canal.
A take-off on San Antonio Riverwalk, Bricktown’s 40-passenger boats have proven perennially popular. The concession, expected to be an annual money loser, has instead, been a revenue reaper.
As Bricktown has grown, the ride has become more than a scenic 40-minute float through the city’s former warehouse district. Visitors increasingly use the taxis as transportation with the addition of Lower Bricktown and Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, the 16-screen Harkins Theaters and Toby Keith’s I Love this Bar and Grill and other businesses there.
Located within walking distance of Cox Convention Center and major downtown hotels, Bricktown has been a blessing to conventioneers. About 40 bars and restaurants have set up shop, and while some are national chains, many like the Biting Sow, Earl’s Rib Palace and the Wormy Dog Saloon are local inventions.
The AT&T Bricktown Ball Park, home of the AAA Oklahoma Red Hawks, remains one of minor league baseball’s most handsome parks; the Red Pin Bowling Lounge in Lower Town adds more recreation. The Coca-Cola Bricktown Events Center, for groups of up to 1,800, and the Santa Fe Depot, for parties of up to 250, are among the special event venues that have opened.
And Bricktown seems far from finished. The city is batting around a plan to build a new convention center and extend the canal to that facility. Discussions are in the early stages.
For now, groups are enjoying the entertainment district, some in a very large way.
For example, when the Harley Owners Group met in Oklahoma City this summer, it had a Bikes and Bricks street party in Bricktown with bands on several stages.
Bricktown’s water taxis were launched 10 years ago.
Courtesy Oklahoma City CVB
City, Okla., has rebuilt itself, and a key has been a conference center that revitalized the Oklahoma City suburb’s hospitality sector.
The 60,000-square-foot Reed Center opened in 2003, and three years later the 151-room Sheraton Midwest City was built adjacent to it. The conference center and attached full-service hotel and several nearby limited-service hotels constitute Midwest City’s meeting hub.
“There are four limited-service hotels that surround the Reed Center; literally the parking lots touch [the Reed Center’s],” said Melanie Voice, executive director of the Midwest City CVB.
The addition of the Reed Center is an impressive one for the town of 54,000, positioned between downtown Oklahoma City and Tinker Air Force Base.
The Reed Center is the only conference center in the state approved by the International Association of Conference Centers (IACC).
Because of its IACC status, the Reed Center is popular with area corporations, as well as associations such as the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, which meets there every summer and fills not only the Sheraton but also the surrounding limited-service hotels.
The center has a 6,000-square-foot exhibit hall and a 96-seat theater on its first level and a 9,000-square-foot ballroom, six small meeting rooms and a patio and veranda on its second level.
Another new meeting facility is the Professional Training and Education Center at Rose State College. It is within walking distance of Midwest City’s hotel cluster but far enough away that many groups would want to offer a shuttle, said Voice.
In addition to a tiered 98-seat auditorium, the center has nine classrooms and a divisible multipurpose room.
Tinker Air Force Base is a major client, but the facility is also available to business and industry for training workshops and seminars.
Voice admits that when it comes to tourist attractions, Midwest City is bereft; but, she points out, downtown Oklahoma City’s Bricktown and other draws are five to 10 minutes away.
And, although there are only two restaurants in Midwest City’s hotel district, many other national chains and local restaurants are located a mile away near Kohl’s, Lowe’s and other big-box stores in the new Town Center Plaza.
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