Tulsa is already home to Oklahoma’s largest ballroom, the 30,060-square-foot Tulsa Ballroom. By this time next year, the city will outdo itself, opening an even larger ballroom at its Cox Business Convention Center.
The new 41,471-square-foot Grand Hall is part of a $55 million reimagining of the convention center, managed by SMG and owned by the city of Tulsa.
“We are one-upping ourselves with Oklahoma’s new largest space,” said Holly Beal, marketing & communications manager.
The project is turning the center’s old arena into the Grand Hall and a new prefunction space and East entrance. Demand for its arena had waned since the BOK Center arena opened across the street in 2008, and Tulsa realized it—and meeting planners—would be better served by turning the arena into meeting space.
Targeting larger state and national conventions
The new Grand Hall’s 38-foot ceilings are expected to be very popular for opening sessions and banquets. Having such a large space will also allow Tulsa to host bigger state and national conventions, make it possible to host several groups simultaneously and keep several conventions in Tulsa that were about to outgrow the city. Tulsa’s biggest conventions include Bassmaster Classic, American Farriers Association, SeneGence International and Zarrow Mental Health Symposium.
Late this summer, the center expected to “announce a couple of multi-year multi-million dollar contracts,” said Beal. “And, moving forward, we have great existing relationships with a number of national conferences. They are ready to grow with us.”
All-glass East entrance will be easy to find
The convention center is by no means small, encompassing a city block. When the project is complete, it will have a total of 275,000 square feet of rentable space, including 55,000 square feet of prefunction areas. All but two blocks of meeting rooms are on ground level.
The new East entrance has three stories of glass that envelope a 4,800-square-foot prefunction space. It is a striking change from the old entrance, which was hard to find.
“People were never really sure how to enter,” said Beal. “There was not a clearly designated front door. With the new design no one will ever question where the front door is.”
The bright, open space looks out on a grassy plaza and Art Deco buildings that make downtown Tulsa a visual treat. Being downtown allows meeting goers to explore some of the city’s seven microdistricts, including the Arts District and the Arena District.
The new entrance will also have valet drop off.
Existing meeting rooms and other spaces are getting some $100,000 in upgrades to compliment the design of the Grand Hall and new prefunction area. Late this summer, work began to expand the center’s kitchen so it too can handle larger conventions. A new green room and show office are also part of the project.
The convention center is open throughout the project, which is on schedule to be finished next August.
Although there are 2,000 hotel rooms downtown, including the connected Doubletree Tulsa Downtown and an Aloft hotel on the same plaza as the center, Tulsa’s next goal is to attract another connected convention hotel through a public/private partnership.