H&LA’s recent research for a project in Oklahoma city, Oklahoma revealed some exciting new hospitality-related developments happening in the area. These developments will have a major impact on tourism, employment, and the general economy in Oklahoma City and the surrounding areas in 2021 and beyond. On-going pandemic concerns may alter timelines for some of these projects.
- The new $288 million Oklahoma City Convention Center opened in January 2021, replacing the 45-year-old Cox Convention Center. This new facility, near Myriad Botanical Gardens, offers 200,000 square feet of exhibit space, roughly twice the amount formerly available. The recently opened Omni Oklahoma City Hotel, adjacent to the Convention Center, has more than 600 guestrooms and 78,000 square feet of event space. Going forward, these facilities will improve the city’s competitive position when it comes to attracting major conventions.
- The first phase of Scissortail Park, a new $132 million park connecting downtown Oklahoma City to the riverfront, opened in September 2019. This 36-acre public park, funded by the MAPS capital improvement program, now offers walking trails, a lake, a boathouse, gardens, children’s playgrounds, youth sports fields, an ice rink, and an outdoor concert stage. A second phase, set to include another 40 acres south of the Skydance Bridge, is scheduled to be completed in 2022.
- The new First Americans Museum (FAM), dedicated to Native American history, is currently taking shape just outside of downtown Oklahoma City on a site near Interstate 35 and the Oklahoma River. The museum will open in September 2021, and it is expected to draw families and school groups from the throughout the state and nation. In July 2020, the Federal Transit Administration awarded Oklahoma City a $4 million grant to link the First Americans Museum to other points of interest along the Oklahoma River via Oklahoma River Cruises, the existing public ferry service. The money will be used to build a dedicated FAM ferry landing along the river.
- An $89 million expansion is currently underway at Will Rogers World Airport, southwest of downtown Oklahoma City. This major project will add four new airline gates, a consolidated security checkpoint, a greeting lounge, and an observation area incorporating terrazzo flooring, glass panels, and public art. Scheduled for completion in mid-2021, this project is designed to meet the demands of anticipated passenger volume growth at the airport.
- In December 2019, Travel + Leisure named Oklahoma City among its “50 Best Places to Travel in 2020,” making it one of only seven destinations in the United States to earn this distinction. The publication cited the completion of recent civic projects such as Scissortail Park, the Oklahoma City Streetcar, and the upgraded convention center, as well as cultural assets like the Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center and Factory Obscura as reasons for the city’s inclusion on the list.
- In summer 2020, Oklahoma City’s Riversport Rapids debuted a new FlowRider surf machine attraction, which allows riders to enjoy simulated ocean surfing. One of just six manmade whitewater courses in the nation, Riversport Rapids first opened in 2016 and has hosted the U.S. Olympic trials and other high-profile events, and it is expected to continue drawing paddle sports enthusiasts to the area for years to come.
- A new interactive aquarium called the Blue Zoo opened in Oklahoma City in July 2020. Located at the Quail Springs Mall, north of downtown, this new attraction showcases more than 200 aquatic species, including, sharks, jellyfish, eels, and seahorses. The two-floor aquarium also features interactive educational exhibits and space for birthday parties and other special events.
- The White Water Bay waterpark recently underwent a major renovation and was renamed Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Oklahoma City. The park now has a tropical island theme, expanded seating, and upgraded dining and retail outlets. Already the region’s largest waterpark, the property added the new Wahoo Racer attraction in 2020, a two-tiered water racing slide that carries six lanes of riders on specially designed toboggans along a 300-foot course that reaches maximum speeds of 40 feet per second.