H&LA Development Update: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

H&LA’s recent research for a project in Oklahoma City 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 the Oklahoma City area in 2019 and beyond.

  • In June 2018, Oklahoma City officially broke ground on a new $288 million downtown convention venue to replace the 45-year-old Cox Convention Center. This new facility, near the Myriad Botanical Gardens, will offer 200,000 square feet of exhibit space, more than double the amount now available. The city has also partnered with Omni Hotels to develop a headquarters hotel for the convention center, which will enable the city to secure larger conventions than it is currently able to accommodate. The new convention center is expected to be completed in 2020, and the hotel is slated to open in 2021.
  • The new American Indian Cultural Center and Museum is currently taking shape just outside of downtown Oklahoma City, on a site near Interstate 35 and the Oklahoma River. Construction on this project first began in 2006 but was halted in 2012 when state funding was curtailed. Work resumed in October 2017, and the facility is now scheduled to open to the public in spring 2021. Once completed, the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum is expected to draw families and school groups from the throughout the state and nation.
  • Riversport Rapids, a new $45 million whitewater rafting park, opened in the Boathouse District of Oklahoma City in 2016. This 11-acre attraction simulates river rafting and features movable blocks that can be adjusted to create varying degrees of difficulty. One of just six manmade whitewater courses in the nation, the course can accommodate about 2,000 participants per day. Riversport Rapids 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 70-acre downtown park is being planned that will connect downtown Oklahoma City to the shores of the Oklahoma River. The $132 million project, dubbed Scissortail Park, will include youth sports fields, play areas, public art, interactive water features, walking/biking trails, and an outdoor concert venue. This major project is scheduled for completion in 2021.
  • A new downtown streetcar system began operating in downtown Oklahoma City in December 2018. The first phase of this project created a six-mile route with stops at various downtown attractions, including Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, Chesapeake Energy Arena, Myriad Gardens, and the Oklahoma City National Memorial. A future expansion, now in the planning stages, will extend the streetcar system beyond the downtown core over the next several years.
  • Bennett Event Center, a new 290,000-square-foot exposition center, opened at State Fair Park in Oklahoma City in January 2017. This new building offers 200,000 square feet of contiguous floor space, which will allow for expanded state fair events and help bring new national and international shows to the area throughout the rest of the year.
  • In August 2018, the Oklahoma City Zoo opened its new 6.6-acre Sanctuary Asia area, featuring Asian elephants, red pandas, Asian rhinos, Komodo dragons, and other rare species. This $22 million project also created an outdoor splash pad and a two-story building with a restaurant and event space. Future projects at the zoo are set to include a new orangutan climbing structure called the Great EscApe, a walk-through amphibian garden, and a dedicated habitat for Galapagos tortoises. In all, the Oklahoma City Zoo has announced plans for $71 million worth of capital investments over the next 10 years.
  • In January 2020, the Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center will open a new arts campus at the corner of Northwest 11th Street and Broadway Avenue in downtown Oklahoma City. This 4.6-acre complex will include spaces for exhibitions, performances, and educational programming.
  • A new 80,000-square-foot indoor sports complex called Score OKC opened in May 2019 in Edmond, Oklahoma, north of Oklahoma City. The complex offers two indoor soccer fields and four multi-purpose courts that can be used for basketball, volleyball, and futsal. This facility, which also features six party rooms, will be used for league play, sports camps, and tournaments, potentially drawing visitors from throughout the larger region.
  • In 2019, Frontier City Theme Park in Oklahoma City introduced its new Timber Town area, with four new rides and costumed characters geared toward younger children. In 2018, Frontier City debuted a new event called “A Frontier Christmas,” featuring holiday light displays, holiday shows, and visits with Santa Claus. Six Flags Entertainment Corporation took over the lease rights to operate the park in 2018, making it one of only two parks run by the company that do not bear the Six Flags name.
  • An $89 million expansion is now 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.