Calling on its can-do, community spirit, Oklahoma City is constantly enhancing its meeting and tourism options. With a downtown filled with entertainment and recreation districts and a new NBA team, this capital city of 1.2 million has also announced that it will build a $280 million convention center, slated to open in 2018.
“We are building the new center because we have had to turn away large conventions that couldn’t be accommodated by our Cox Convention Center,” said Elizabeth Richardson, director of sales and services, Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“The current convention center has a 100,000-square-foot exhibit hall, a 25,000-square-foot ballroom and a 15,000-seat arena, and the new downtown facility will basically double this space.
“Downtown is where we do the majority of our larger meetings, and it offers 1,600 of our 16,000 hotel rooms, including the 311-room Renaissance Hotel attached to the Cox Center,” she said. “Groups really enjoy the fact that we have so many attractions within walking distance.”
For example, the new Oklahoma Thunder basketball team plays next door to the center in the 20,000-seat Oklahoma City Arena, and the Myriad Botanical Gardens and Crystal Bridge Conservatory is across the street. The 17-acre garden,which is currently under renovation, will have meeting space for 200 in 2012.
“Groups can also walk just two blocks from the Cox Center to Bricktown, an entertainment and dining district that also includes a milelong canal with narrated water-taxi rides,” said Richardson. “It has numerous reception sites, including Nonna’s Euro-American Ristorante and Bar, which has space for 160.”
Other downtown reception options include the Oklahoma Redhawks’ Bricktown Baseball Park, which can host 250 for an indoor or 400 for an outdoor reception, and two boathouses in the six-year-old Boathouse District six blocks away.
“With its rowing, kayaking and cycling opportunities on the Oklahoma River, the Boathouse District is a great place for team building,” said Richardson. “The Chesapeake Boathouse can hold 225, and the Devon Boathouse can hold 600.”
To the northeast, the city’s Adventure District is home to three museums, including the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, one of the state’s top tourist attractions. Its main meeting venue is a 16,500-square-foot special-events center.
The district is also home to the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Gardens, which can host a reception for 500, as well as the Amateur Softball Association Softball Hall of Fame and Museum.
Its stadium hosts the city’s largest sporting event of the year, the NCAA Women’s College World Series of Softball, which draws 9,500 people per day for six days.
“In Oklahoma City, everyone works together to strive for excellence,” said Richardson. “We have even more projects planned, including a 70-acre downtown central park, downtown street car lines and 57 miles of new biking and walking trails.”