Way More than OK: Oklahoma City is a City to Embrace, not Bash

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By Robert Rivard

Like you, when it comes to the Spurs, I’m a home town guy. Like you, I’m excited: I see Tim and Tony and Manu (and Pop) as a team of destiny, one that (light candle to the Virgin here) is on the verge of defending the “dynasty” crown that I and others bestowed on them after four NBA Championship titles — a run interrupted by the collapse against the Memphis Grizzlies last year.

But count me out for snarky media bashing of Oklahoma City. A smarter San Antonio would use the occasion of this exciting series against the Thunder to learn more about the 20-year metamorphosis of Oklahoma City as we labor toward  our own transformation in San Antonio. Before we count out Oklahoma City, let’s remember: This is truly a Comeback City. And I don’t mean the Thunder. More on that below.

No city ever improved its lot by mocking a regional rival. Yes, the occasion of the NBA Western Conference Finals triggers bread and circus rabble-rousing and the  media’s base instinct to attack the enemy while feeding and gratifying hometown spectators. Too bad by doing so we miss a more meaningful opportunity that could contribute to San Antonio’s future well-being far more than victory in a single playoff series.

Truth is, Oklahoma City is farther down the road San Antonio seeks to travel. They’ve been busy transforming their downtown for a lot longer and, frankly, it shows. San Antonio has more to work with: We are bigger, more economically and culturally diverse, and have a richer history than the Sooners. But Oklahoma City has been working longer and they’ve done so with greater unity. Just about everyone in Oklahoma City seems to understand that a more vibrant downtown means a more vibrant city for all. We are not there yet.

Oklahoma City had to get up off the ground and dust itself off before the current era of urban improvements took root. An earlier effort to revitalize Oklahoma City’s downtown in the 1960s and 1970s, lead by famed architect I.M. Pei, the so-called Pei Plan, was a failure. Many historic structures were razed, brick by red brick, to make way for a new urban core, but the promised residential and retail renaissance never happened. By the 1980s Oklahoma City was mired in the failure of its own unrealized ambitions.

I briefly met Oklahoma City Mayor Ron Norrick in the early 90s, and only later appreciated the hurdles he overcame to convince voters there in 1992 to set aside the rancor and ill will left over from the Pei Plan, and embrace his proposal for a new Metropolitan Area Projects initiative funded by sales taxes. Norrick prevailed, of course, and in 1993 the plan that would set Oklahoma City on the path to revitalizing its downtown was put in  place.

April 21, 1995: How many cities could recover from such devastation?

April 21, 1995: How many cities could recover from such devastation?

Everything was going the city’s way until April 19, 1995 when Oklahoma City suffered the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history prior to Sept. 11, 2011 when a bomb was set off at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing 168 people, injuring 680 more, damaging or destroying more than 300 buildings and causing nearly $700 million in property losses. Exactly five years later, Oklahoma City National Memorial opened on the bomb site. Every city today should ask itself: Would our city have responded as well as Oklahoma City?

(This paragraph has been updated…twice.) The downtown initiative continued, despite the epic tragedy. MAPS has raised hundreds of millions of dollars in sales tax revenues that were invested in downtown improvement projects, and it attracted hundreds of millions more in private investment. The first phase of MAPS ended in 2004 with the opening of the city’s new main library, but downtown investment continues to this day. After a second phase that focused on schools, MAPS 3 was approved in 2010. Over the next seven years it is expected to raise $777 million through a one cent sales tax increase. And then there is Project 180, a $160 million redesign of downtown streets to make them more bicycle and pedestrian friendly.

Retail and residential line the mile-long Bricktown Canal.

Flash back to events here in 1992: San Antonio was welcoming At&T’s decision to relocate here from St. Louis, and construction was being completed on the Alamodome amid intense community division. City voters had rejected proposals to build the city’s first reservoir, Applewhite, and anti-tax gadflies enjoyed more time on talk radio than elected officials. The nation’s most restive term limits were about to take root here. The  city seemed pulled in opposing directions, towards and away from progress and change. The “aginners” seemed to hold the momentum.

The MAPS plan led to the development of Bricktown, something San Antonio still does not have to this day, a viable downtown entertainment district that attracts locals and visitors alike. This former warehouse district just east of downtown is now the economic, cultural and entertainment engine of Oklahoma City. It’s defined by the mile-long Bricktown Canal, which takes you right to the minor league Bricktown Ballpark. The Thunder, of course, play at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Bricktown Ballpark in the heart of Bricktown.

Bricktown Ballpark in the heart of Bricktown.

Contrast the isolation of the AT&T Center on the East side and Wolff Stadium on the Southwest side in our city with these venues. Still laughing?

The Bricktown Canal might be artificial and might be the subject of jokes, but it was conceived by progressive forces in Oklahoma City who saw, specifically, how much the Paseo del Rio in San Antonio served as the foundation of a tourist and convention economy now worth an estimated $13 billion a year. I still remember during Mayor Bill Thornton’s administration in the mid-1990s traveling with a city-led delegation to Monterrey, where San Antonio engineers were overseeing an urban canal project similar to the one they were overseeing in Oklahoma City while also working on the expanded Convention Center stretch of the River Walk.

Oklahoma City, like San Antonio, is still a city trying to make its core central district one that will attract and keep smart, educated young people. Oklahoma City 20 years ago didn’t stand a chance. Now it does. So while the Spurs are taking on the Thunder, we can bait our Red River neighbors with cheap put-downs, or we can spend time between games learning from a regional sister city that can teach us a lot about vision, cohesiveness and tenacity — at least off the basketball court.

Wreaths adorn empty chairs, each memorializing a victim of the bombing.

Wreaths adorn empty chairs, each memorializing a victim of the bombing.

Want to read more? Try these Oklahoma City blogs:

A writer who’s never met a color she doesn’t like:

http://www.pencilshavingsstudio.com/

The Daily Oklahoma’s version of the Express-News’ Ben Olivo:

http://www.okccentral.com/

Want to know what the other team’s fans are saying and thinking?

http://www.welcometoloudcity.com/

OK City is filled with interesting young people. Here are some of them:

http://www.thelostogle.com/




There are 96 comments

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  1. Jim Dalglish

    Absolutely agree. Basketball aside, I have been so impressed with OKC when I visit. The author covered its development well. I might add that it is a clean and orderly town, with much to offer in arts and culture, including excellent museums and one of the best zoos in the country. And for those who are so inclined, the nightlife in the downtown district rocks!

  2. Jamie Lansford

    Great article. I’ve always been astonished by how quickly people jump on the bashing bandwagon, but are so quick to take umbrage when they themselves are the subject of bashing. San Antonians bristle when sports commentators bemoan our city (all the while wishing they were announcing games in sparkly L.A. or New York). We bristle when people knock our river or trash our citizens. But the bashing always flows downstream, you know? The bashed love to bash. I remember growing up on the south side of S.A. and always being bashed by the north side. Schools bash each other. Children bash each other. It never ends.

    Until we all realize that we’re in this together … That the strength of people is forged in finding common bonds … Will this madness end. Unfortunately, few these days champion commonality. Instead, we focus on what divides us and on what makes one person “better” or “stronger” or “richer” than another.

    Thanks for pointing out what everyone should already know: There is beauty and goodness and hope in every city. It’s especially evident when you stop the bashing.

  3. Arturo

    Right on! And “snarky” is a charitable description of the juvenile offerings in the big-city daily. Charles Barkley the day’s top story? We’re better than that — or at least I thought so.

  4. Jim Stark

    we of OKC are honored by your article. what grace and maturity you display, a textbook lesson for any aspiring journalist. My family just spent a beautiful April week in San Antonio for vacation and loved it all. Look forward to coming back in the fall, proudly wearing my Thunder shirt!

    • Robert Rivard

      What a gracious message, many thanks. Hope you will share the article with friends and colleagues in OKC. You guys do have your work cut out for you up there, now that we have a 2-0 lead. But we might come up and see you afterwards to talk about your city instead of basketball. Please call when you are next in SA. –RR

      • Billy

        I’m an Oklahoman currently living in Fort Worth who’s taking his family to San Antonio at the end of June for a mini vacation. Thank you so much for your kind, thoughtful article. Outside of the Red River Rivalry, our two states need to realize that we would get a lot further working together than working against each other. I love both states and both cities.

  5. Anonymous

    Thanks for the nice piece about OKC. I’m a west coast transplant who has fallen in love with this place — thanks for seeing beyond the stereotypes.

    Just a side note: MAPS isn’t quite through yet — we passed MAPS 3 in 2010: http://www.okc.gov/maps3/. Coupled with MAPS 3, Project 180 is transforming downtown (if you visit, sorry about all of the construction): http://www.okc180.com/.

  6. Sid Burgess

    Great article Mr. Rivard. OKC is one of those cities that just can’t help itself – it is going to inspire you. The unity that you mentioned is infectious.

    My encounter with San Antonio began over 10 years ago while I spent time at Ft Sam Houston. I fell in love with the river walk and the culture of San Antonio.

    You are right, you have a lot to work with and a lot to be grateful for. And so does OKC. Great culture and history, great people, and great neighbors to our south.

    Good luck in the playoffs but I will have to cheer for my Thunder. If it comes to it though, losing to the Spurs — such an amazing team — would only sting slightly. Then a walk through Bricktown and along the Oklahoma River would put be back in perspective of all the reasons to be thankful of what OKC has accomplished. But don’t get too cozy with your wins. OKC is ready to help the Thunder go all the way. :)

    • Robert Rivard

      We won’t take anything for granted now that the drama shifts to your arena. Appreciate you sharing The Rivard Report with your fellow Oklahomans. Meanwhile, hope events bring me back to your city soon.

      • Sandi Davis

        Hello,
        I wrote for the Oklahoman for 17 years, from 1989 to 2006.
        I covered Bricktown from its genesis. I covered the OKC bombing and the aftermath.
        I have seen my hometown rise from its own ashes like a phoenix several times and I love the people here because we always do so.
        I was so pleased when the NBA gave Oklahoma City its own franchise and we have treated the Thunder like the conquering heroes they will always be to us.
        I covered entertainment for 15 years, including travel. I spent several delightful weeks over the years in San Antonio on paid travel junket and one movie junket, so I always saw the best side of the city and I have loved the Riverwalk since the 1970s, when I graduated from college. I loved it then, I love it now.
        Thank you so much for your gracious story. I covered many of the things you highlighted in your story and you did a great job.
        Oklahomans as a whole are a proud people, because we have worked for everything we have. We may trash talk in sports, but I think it’s a good-natured ribbing. Texas, in all things, is our main rival and the teasing is meant in good fun I think.
        Both cities have complexes because we are not Dallas, Houston, LA, NYC, and the broadcasters never let us forget this.
        But we know it. So, I’m thinking, win, lose or draw, our fans should band together and whatever the outcome, make sure the winner of the Western Finals wins the whole thing.
        Both cities deserve this.

  7. Sarah

    I’ve lived in both cities and there is no way SA is more culturally diverse than OKC. Unless you’re only including Mexican and European cultures.

    • Robert Rivard

      Sara

      Thanks for your post. We are interested in hearing more, especially because you’ve lived in both cities. Any interest in writing a piece comparing and contrasting the two cities and your experiences living and/or working in both? Thanks,

      RR

      • Dan Lovejoy

        Oklahoma City has a very large, thriving Asian District about 2 miles north of downtown along Classen Avenue with a huge Vietnamese population, a huge Mexican community, and a fairly significant Korean community on the east side in Del City. We have a relatively small Jewish community of long American descent, a tiny Muslim community of mostly immigrants and exchange students (I think, but I could be wrong), and a smattering of people of various other cultural backgrounds. We’re a very white protestant community, but we are well seasoned by lots of diversity.

  8. DeAnn

    As an Oklahoman, I truly enjoyed your article and thank you for it. It is making the rounds here in OKC. It is very well written and captures the vision I believe we have here of an city that wants to stand undivided and strong. It truly has been a long road, but with cities like yours to model after and look up to, we are getting there. I know San Antonio is one of my favorite vacation spots and I look forward to going anytime my kids and I get a chance. Thank you for your article and and for recognizing the Oklahoma spirit. It is very much appreciated by many Oklahomans.

  9. Dana F

    Thank you so much for this article! I’m a transplanted Okie living in the Detroit, MI area and I long for my home town, especially with all the renewed vigor and energy I see and hear about. I am so proud of the Thunder and what they have accomplished in their short time as an NBA team. I love San Antonio, too! One of the most peaceful days I have ever had was having lunch at Mi Tierra right by the River several years ago. I’m going back in October this year for a conference, and I’ll be staying at The Menger.

    I’ve been watching the changes happening in OKC for a few years. I would love to move back there. I love Michigan, and yes, I even love the snow we get here. Detroit has the capacity for greatness and I hope that they can pull it together to accomplish it. Detroit can learn a lot from what OKC has done, what San Antonio has done, and what Chicago has done. Before that can happen, a sense of unity needs to happen.

    Before 4/19/05, I feel OKC was on a path to what they’ve got now, but no one really cared whether or not it happened, or when. Once the bomb hit, its like we all pulled together and said, “Oh yeah? Bomb us, huh? Take THAT!” As heart-breaking as those pictures of the bomb site and the Memorial are, they are vital. We HAVE to remember and we HAVE to tell our children about it. Its been several years since I’ve been to the Memorial and I’ve never been able to set foot inside the Museum. The last time I was there (2007, I think), I had to leave in tears because I happened to find the place where I used to park when I would have to go to the Murrah Building to file court documents, or visit the Judges. I was no stranger to that building. Even today, I can remember where the snack bar and restaurant were, how I got inside from the parking garage, and where the various offices were that I would have to visit.

    Whether its the Thunder or the Spurs that make it through this series, I will be happy. If the Spurs win, I’ll be supporting them all the way, and I would hope Spurs fans would feel the same way if the Thunder makes it through this series.

    • Robert Rivard

      Dana

      I’d welcome a guest article from you exploring what you like or dislike about these cities you’ve lived in and visited. If you read others on my site, you’ll see we publish a lot of guest writers on the subject of urban life. We hear Detroit is on its way back, which makes me happy as a Michigan native.
      RR

  10. BC

    Hi Robert,

    Thanks for the great article, We like you guys too! I’m a long time Spurs fan but they’re #2 behind the Thunder for me. If we don’t get past you guys I’ll be putting my Spurs hat on and pullin’ for ya!

  11. Deborah

    Thanks so much, Mr. Rivard! I’m a lifelong Okie, living in a suburb just 2 miles east of downtown and I work downtown. I’ve only lived here, so I can’t compare the sense of community we have to any other, but I’m sure it’s not like any other! I’m sure sorry you can’t make it up here for Game 3 because you’d love all the recent changes. Oh, and for the uniniated, it’s “OKC”, not “Oak City”. You didn’t say that in your article, but I’ve heard sports announcers calling it that over the past few weeks. If you hear someone call it “Oak City”, you KNOW they ain’t from around here!

    • BEP

      Just FYI, Oak City is the air traffic call sign for Will Rogers airport in OKC. That’s a completely trivial piece of information, but somewhere along the line it stuck for some people.

      Nice article.

      • Carrie

        That may be, but still – I’ve never heard anyone who actually lives here call it that, yet every sportscaster seems to think that’s how we refer to it instead of as OKC. It’s like person who finally gets their name in lights only to have it misspelled or called something else entirely… I’m just glad I’m not the only one a little frustrated by it. We’re finally on the radar and they can’t get our name right? I realize we have talking heads like Barkley as sportscasters, but “journalists” are supposed to do their homework. 2 years in a row of making it this far in the finals and they still call us by the wrong name. #SMH

  12. Rev. Shane Tharp

    Thanks for this thoughtful article. I visited SA back in the early 90′s and was entranced by the place. It has taken a lot of work to bring OKC to where it is now. As a life long resident of Oklahoma, I find myself in bewilderment at how much has changed in just 20 years. Our Thunder are getting a great lesson from an experienced team on what the next level might look like for them.

  13. Rachel Shingleton

    A friend of mine just sent me the link to your article, and I would like to say thank you for including me in your roundup of OKC sites to check out. We’re all pretty proud and excited of where our city is headed. As a lifelong Oklahoman, I marvel at the city as it is today; the city now is nearly unrecognizable – in a good way.

    Again, kind regards and much thanks for the mention.

  14. Howie Jackson

    Thank you for the report. We have always thought of our canal as a Jr sized version of what San Antonio offers. You are spot on with the amount of activities available downtown. A short walk will give you baseball, Bass Pro shops, a convention center and the Chesapeake arena,and countless clubs and restaurants. Not to mention the Myriad Gardens, Civic Center Music Hall, The Bombing Memorial and the newly finished Devon Energy Skyscraper. You should really see it over Christmas when they turn the Brick (the Bricktown Ballpark) into a tubing hill and set up an outdoor icerink in front of the Civic Center. Thank you for your report. And, I’m going to root for the Western Conference Champ, no matter what, even though I’d love to see it be us.

  15. Mark Towler

    Robert,
    I moved to OKC about 6 months after the bombing. At that point, MAPS had passed but very little development had taken place. I vividly remember walking around the streets of Bricktown and seeing signs indicating that a particular street was going to be the site of a canal. At that point, this city had a palpable sense of momentum and that sense carries on to this day.

    Thank you for the kind write up, enjoy your time in OKC and GO THUNDER :-)

  16. Christi

    Thanks for your nice perspective on my adopted home city. My husband and I just love San Antonio and are enjoying this series, except that we’re hoping the Thunder will take the series in a Game 7, of course. Please don’t forget MAPS for Kids, which would be likened to a second MAPS, where the funds were used for capital improvements at the OKC Public Schools. Each school in the district was built anew, renovated or refurbished. These penny taxed continue to pass because the City, led by Ron Norick in the early 90s recognized that improvements we make to make our city better benefit us all.

  17. Tracy

    Thank you for your wonderful article. As a native Oklahoman, I have experienced many of the negative comments about this city/state that I love so much. It is refreshing to hear a positive review of our city. I am so pleased that all of the improvements and developments we have made are noticed and appreciated, but what is even more pleasing is that the spirit behind it (which has always been here) is appreciated as well.

  18. JakeNoklahoma

    Class personified writing! It’s great to know that sportsmanship, character and plain ol’e human spirit exist in and outside the sports world. Go Thunder and Go OkC but Go Spurs and San Antonio if you guys advance. ;)

  19. Anonymous

    Loved this. As an OKC citizen my absolute favorite vacation is going to San Antonio in october and spending a week in the lovely prescence of history and grace. I love HEB too. Lol. Thanks for the article and love the cities we represent. I find the snide remarks to be a sign of relief because if the so called hollywood types and superstars think our cities are trash then to me that is a great thing because that means they keep themselves out of our beloved cities. Go Thunder but if we lose Go Spurs because i still dislike Lebrick James.

  20. Kita

    Thank you! As an Oklahoma native, I lived out on the west coast for several years (and went to grad school in Austin), before coming home to stay, six months after the Murrah Building bombing. (Not a coincidence.) I’ve watched the quality of life improve here in leaps and bounds. Down here in Norman, we’ve got an (IMHO) enviable collaboration between government, academia and private enterprise, in the form of a thriving R&D industry built around severe weather research. More good jobs, more reasons to attract and retain our best and brightest.

    And don’t forget our music industry. It’s an up-and-comer. Next time you’re in town, come out to the Blue Door, and we’ll entertain you as well as anyone in Austin can.

    So hey, San Antone, y’all have a good day and we’ll look forward to seeing you soon!

  21. Lennon Patton

    Thank you so much for this thoughtful and well researched look at the city that I love the most. I will say that San Antonio is one of my favorite destinations when I travel for work and pleasure.

  22. Clarity

    Today, we attended a talent show at Putnam Heights Elementary School: very impressed with the remodel (MAPS) and the students.

  23. OK - UK

    Thanks so much for a terrific article! I am a lifelong OKC resident and have heard practically every slur and put-down of the last 45 years as regards my hometown; it gets disheartening after a while. My husband transplanted here from England and loves it. The weather can be beautiful or questionable, but our people are our greatest strength. We are proud to have set the “Oklahoma Standard” used worldwide to respond to adversity. I will cheer my heart out for the team that advances from this series; until then, thanks again for your gracious story about our wonderful city, and THUNDER UP! : )

  24. Raymond from Boston

    This is what, I believe, they call “serendipity.” It is 2:45 in the morning and I am writing from a hotel in downtown Oklahoma City. I have never been here in my life until yesterday afternoon. I have been talking to my family, friends, and colleagues back in Boston and have been raving about this city. I Googled for a city discussion forum an hour or so ago and ended up at OKCTALK.com. I was browsing looking for good restaurant ideas and stumbled on a thread that linked to your article and I’m so glad I did. What you have written about OKC is exactly what I have been telling people back home. Most make jokes and brush me off and that’s too darn bad because this place is a clean, vibrant, up and coming city and it’s too bad so many don’t know about this oasis in the plains.

    I know San Antonio well, I travel for AT&T business about twice a year and have for a long time. SA is a great city, but that’s never a surprise to people back home. For some reason, people can’t grasp that Oklahoma City actually has skyscrapers. In fact, they have a gorgeous new 50+ story tower that’s been the tallest project outside the NYC area in the United States.

    Back to my PowerPoint presentation. You probably wondered why I’m up at 2:50 in the morning. I have this baby to finish up and I get to sleep in tomorrow (Thursday) before a big day on Friday. I’m very glad I made this serendipitous discovery of your site. Your article not only was great because we both have noticed identical things about OKC, but I found the humanity in your article a refreshing note in a world of internet sniping back and forth and vitriol between NBA teams and their respective cities. Thank you for lifting my spirits by allowing me the honor to read your article.

    May the best team win in the West. Either way, GO CELTS!

    • Nyna Clymer

      Hello, My name is Nyna ( 9 with an a) lol I am living in OKC and saw you are from Boston. I am flying into Boston late Septamber for Great nieces wedding. My niece lives in New Hapmshire, however she said to travel into Logan in Boston then she will pick me up. My questions is if you have any places you would like to recommend in Boston to try on my way off the plane or on the way returning. I’m hoping to have a lil bit of time since This is my very first time to the NE’
      Hope you had a great time on OKC – If you enjoy steak go to Cattlemen’s Cafe and try the Blue Ribbon cut – usually a Rib Eye and it is like butter! Sorry it will be somewhat costly for this area. You can actually get food at very affordable prices here in OKC. Enjoy our city and tell me about yours.
      Nyna Clymer I am on Facebook as well.

  25. Lola

    I am a native Texan, so of course, I hold San Antonio as Hallowed Ground. I have now lived in Oklahoma for more years than I lived in Texas, yet if asked, will tell you I’m a Texan. However, I can’t think of anywhere else I would want to be than right here. The people of this state are a warm, welcoming group, even when you have bashed us (Chuck). I appreciate your article and hope that it will encourage others to come visit and enjoy our hospitality. I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t close with ‘GO THUNDER’!

  26. Larry in OKC

    Greetings from OKC.

    As a native born OKCitian, thanks for the complimentary and anti-stereotypical viewpoint. Unlike some who are now proud to call OKC home after MAPS etc, in my close to 50 years, I have never been ashamed to let people know where I was born and live (some of our elected leaders are another story for another time & place).

    A few of things mentioned may be a bit misleading. While our Canal does take you by the Ballpark (the “Brick”), it does not go go by the Convention Center and Arena where the Thunder now play (it was supposed to but due to substantial cost over runs, was never built). Our Bricktown Canal is no SA Riverwalk. The Canal is showing signs of improvement 10+ years later and maybe in another 50 years one might be able to compare them favorably. But not now.

    While the City and State was unified & responded admirably (the “Oklahoma Standard”), the implication that OKC has a “cohesiveness” when it comes to the various MAPS programs is a bit misleading. At the time of the original MAPS passage, it was described as “barely” doing so. MAPS 2 (MAPS for Kids) for our schools enjoyed higher voter margins and even the vote that made the improvements to the Arena (which arguably led to the Sonics/Thunder relocation), had decent voter approval. However with MAPS 3, the approval was back down to the same “barely passing” approval. One reason may be attributed to MAPS & MAPS 3 are more downtown centric while MAPS 2 was citywide.

    I disagree with the contention that a vibrant city has to have a vibrant downtown. I have nothing against nostalgia but that seems what we have here…a romanticized view of what was the case once (like when my parents were growing up in the ’50s before malls where downtown was THE place to shop etc), but I just don’t think that is the reality of today’s world. Most of the places people visit aren’t because they are located downtown, if they were located elsewhere in the City, they would still be visited. One could argue that is exactly what happened. As stores opened in other locations, why go to the trouble and expense of gong downtown when there was the same thing close by?

    I was “wowed” when Project 180 was unveiled as it was an impressive and ambitious undertaking but again, due to massive cost over runs, it is being scaled back by roughly 40% It is still going to be nice, but not nearly what was presented to the public.

    • Robert Rivard

      Larry

      Thanks for that thoughtful and detailed comment. I’m definitely planning on a visit to OKC soon to learn more firsthand since I haven’t been there for a few years. I’d like to ask all of readers from OKC who they think might best be approached now by The Rivard Report to represent the city and write an article for us on the transformation of OKC and the investment made by citizens there over the last two decades or so? We are interested in reaching out and connecting with such a person while the Spurs-Thunder series is brining so much attention to our building, neighborly rivalry.
      Thanks, RR

      • Mark Towler

        Robert,
        I’m not expert on all the people to contact, but here’s a few suggestions:

        Steve Lackmeyer http://newsok.com/steve-lackmeyer (he posted a comment earlier in this thread). Steve writes for the Oklahoman and has chronicled the development of Downtown for many, many years. As a journalist, he is not paid to be an OKC or Downtown OKC Cheerleader. I’ve found his writings to be reflective of the many good things that have been going on here while at the same time, like Larry’s comments above, also presenting the challenges associated with that growth.

        There is an organization, Downtown OKC (http://www.downtownokc.com/) and I’m sure their President/CEO Jane Jenkins would be a great person to talk about the growth of OKC from the perspective of what’s been going on in the downtown area. In the interest of full-disclosure, DOKC is a customer of my company.

        I’m sure you’ll get many more suggestions but those are a few off the top of my head!

      • John

        Robert – contact Steve Lackmeyer with the Daily Ok – hands down the best to write about the transformation.. okccentral.com

  27. Tyler

    This is such an amazing article! I got chills while I was reading it! Too many people forget that it is just a game and outside of it we’re all family!

  28. Damon Gardenhire

    This was a classy article, and I am thoroughly impressed with your in-depth knowledge about what is happening in OKC. It is especially telling that you prepared this piece in a week when we have seen some journalists in other regions (like Minnesota) taking potshots at Oklahoma City. A lot of Okies chose to stay when times weren’t so good, and raise families here, and we continue to be validated by our decision.

  29. Kent Gordon

    Thanks for the compliments to my city; though I’d like to ask why you think SA is more diverse. “San Antonio has more to work with: We are bigger, more economically and culturally diverse, and have a richer history than the Sooners.” I will not address the comment that you have a richer history than we; that is pure opinion and cannot be justified. Where does this information come from? Is it quantifiable? I understand that you have many more Hispanics than most anyone, but that does not constitute diversity. In OKC we have very large Hispanic, African-American, Native-American, and Asian-American populations. In fact, Oklahoma was the first state to have an all Black city, the fall of Saigon brought thousands of Vietnamese citizens to our city, and of course, the Dept of Interior forced a vast number of Native-Americans to relocate here in the 1800′s (you know while you all were fighting that losing battle against Spain). So thanks for sticking up for OKC against your xenophobic brethren, but don’t cast us as the redheaded stepchild of the league. In the past few years we have gone from the cellar to the attic in professional basketball; something no one thought we could do. In fact, we thrive on doing things no one thinks we can. It is amazing to hear such rancor from the citizens of a city whose greatest claim to fame is the failure of the Alamo. Perhaps that has a subconscious impact on your self-image. By the way, last time I checked, OKC was the largest city in area in the country; that may have changed, but I doubt if San Antonio supplanted us. So of your four statements of superiority; only economic diversity is even remotely true; but is it? We now know that OKC is more culturally diverse, bigger in size, and we could argue about historical richness until the end of time without resolution.

    • Robert Rivard

      I distinguished one city from another based on a couple of things:

      U.S. Census data shows San Antonio has a more racially/ethnic diverse population than OKC. Our city looks more like what every city will look like in a few decades. On the subject of history, San Antonio is older than OKC, and has a unique profile as a city that was founded when Spain still ruled this part of the “New World,” and then became territory claimed by Mexico, then its own Republic, then a state, then part of the Confederacy, and finally part of a unified nation.

      Others might see things differently and we welcome those viewpoints. OKC readers new to our site might notice if they scroll beyond the OKC story that we routinely publish not only Comments from readers, but actual stories and op-eds on our home page. We try not to subordinate the thoughtful views of others, and instead give them equal footing. Thanks for your comments.

  30. Dee

    A friend sent me this link. I lived in OKC for many years but am not a native. I have recently retired and plan to move back to OKC as soon as I can off-load my real estate here on the east coast. I have become aware that with low unemployment in OK and the fact that housing for the most part maintained its value better than the rest of the country I will be buying a smaller home than I am used to. Hell, I might even move downtown and rent. But, it does not matter as I am coming home.

    Coming home to a city with a vision… I have followed the MAPS project, the design and implimentation of the Memorial (look at NYC by contract), the development of the Boathouse District, Bricktown, the Botanical Garden, and everything else. I recently visited and asked my hosts for The Tour. Added since the last visit was the Devon Tower and the updated Chesapeake Center, not to mention the new Whole Foods and additions to the Medical Center.

    If you folks in OKC thing the rest of the country is doing what you are doing they are not. You are unique (voting a sales tax on yourself and all) and trying harder. Pat yourself on the back and keep it up please. Hope to be back soon to add to the tax base.

    Oh, and GO THUNDER.

  31. Sarah

    This is an amazing article! I’ve lived in a few big cities, and people’s perception of OKC is so off point. It took leaving and moving back home to truly appreciate how awesome Oklahoma City is, and this just made my afternoon! Thank you for the boost!

  32. Bajaokie

    I moved from OKC to SA in ’93 and lived in the Alamo city off and on until 2000. Your article mirrors my own impression of two cities I considered home. SA has grown so much, a progressive eye on the future is crucial for dealing with the growing pains of being a place where people want to live, work and retire.

  33. Marianne from OKC

    I have been cheering OKC on for the last 20 years, and I remember well when there was not much to do and there were not many reasons to visit downtown. I love the transformation of our city, and I love the feeling of forward momentum here. One thing I find tremendously ironic and kind of amusing is that Oklahomans bill our state as “the reddest state in the nation,” and yet we in OKC are most proud of the changes brought about by voting to increase our own taxes. We are proud that we did it–three times! And before MAPS we voted a permanent sales tax to support the zoo!
    Go figure.

    • Robert Rivard

      OKC: Thank you for all you wonderful comments, and by the way, thank you for setting a new one-day traffic record for our startup site, which launched as a blog in mid-February and moved to its current format in early May. We would welcome all of our OKC friends to visit The Rivard Report page on Facebook and “like” us. We appreciate your support and look forward to another visit to your city soon.

  34. Konrad

    Ha, exactly Marianne. At least the demographics of cities like OKC and Tulsa aren’t so red-washed politically :) State-wide yes, but not in the bigger cities. Oh, and thank you for this lovely lovely article Robert.

  35. RangerDan

    Very nice article RR. I’ve been an Okie since the late 80′s and have witnessed quite a transformation. I really appreciate your kind words about our city. I am not all that active in city affairs, but I sure do love what has happened to the downtown OKC area. I am very proud of our city and would be happy to make a number of suggestions to downtown visitors (The Hilton Skirvin, Red Prime, Iguana Lounge, Sara Sara Cupcakes and many more). You can catch an off-broadway show, have a great dinner, then choose between double A baseball or top shelf basketball all in one day. I WAS just in San Antonio a couple weeks ago and love the favorable comparison. I hope to go back to SA for a game 5. Go Thunder!

  36. RangerDan

    One thing I forgot to mention that I beleive is worth noting. I think we’d be remiss if we did not mention the commitment and invstment that companies like Devon, OG&E, SandRidge, Chesapeake and Continental have…and continue to make. Without their ongoing support and commitment, I dont think we’d be half the city we are!

  37. Rob

    Great article. I started visiting the city in the mid to late 80s in business trips. Coming from a more urban background, it looked to me like a cow-town surrounded by little towns without services, they called subdivisions. It was spread out with a lot of empty space, and not a whole lot to do. In 1993, when the business moved me to OKC, changes just had started, as the Bricktown Brewery just opened, and indicated a vision for the area. Man, things have changed since then. Things are filling up, not only downtown. It really starts to look like a ‘real city’, and I like it! Only now I have to hunt for parking spots again…

  38. John

    Great article! I grew up in OKC but was transplanted to the Rockies after college. I moved by choice; but with the intent on getting back one day. Each day, Thunder win or not, what the Thunder have done (as a culmination of MAPS, etc) makes me more proud of my hometown and state. Few people (read: no one) could have imagined where we stand today 20 years ago, but you will find no one more thankful and proud than the folks of OKC. Thank you so much for the article.

  39. Tiffany

    Thanks for the great article! Most people don’t realize what a great city OKC is. It’s a great place to live and raise a family. You really should check out the boathouse district on the Oklahoma River. It’s an Olympic training site and my favorite place to be. There are great plans for the area including a white water course, zip lines, ropes courses, two new boathouses and indoor surfing just to name a few. I’ve been rowing there for a couple years and think it will become one of the most popular places in the city. http://riversportokc.org

  40. Nick Roberts

    Robert,

    I’m interested in how you came to the conclusion that Bricktown is ahead of anything in San Antonio. Most of us in OKC view Bricktown as being on a massive downhill slide in the last 5 years due to the rockstar emergence of several other downtown districts.

    1. Deep Deuce, for example, is seeing 8 major development projects (all multi-story) in a single small area right now. Several of these projects are extremely flashy, like the new 7-story Aloft hotel, which is surrounded by multistory housing projects as well as a bikeshare rack and the planned streetcar terminus.
    2. Mid-town has over a dozen housing projects underway and several new businesses opening. Mid-town has definitely overtaken Bricktown as the main restaurant district.
    3. Film Row and the Arts District, which make up downtown’s west side, was skid row 10 years ago – it is now the newest district with several new restaurants and creative businesses. OKC Gay Pride was in Film Row the other week. This whole area stands to grow a TON as it stands in the shadow of the new Devon Tower.
    4. Core2Shore, the area with the new MAPS3 central park and the SkyDance Bridge, already has one historic loft project underway, and this is the area where city leaders plan to attract major development bridging downtown and the Oklahoma River waterfront.
    5. The business core of downtown itself is no longer anything to scoff at, with several major developments adding after-5 life, including a lot of historic abandoned buildings that are being renovated into offices, hotels, and lofts. The $130 million downtown streetcar will make anyone crossing from one downtown district to another have to pass through the CBD core first.

    There are also other downtown districts like Automobile Alley (which includes a breathtaking stretch of North Broadway) that have seen a renaissance. Outside downtown, the Plaza District is definitely the biggest urban renewal hotspot. The Paseo was named by the APA as a Top Ten neighborhood last year, and last week Travel & Leisure called Paseo one of “America’s 10 Most Beautiful Neighborhoods.” Paseo was also warring gang territory in the 80s, so quite the resurgence there. Western Avenue is seeing hundreds of millions $$ in urban development, including the Chesapeake Energy campus. There’s also Uptown 23rd Street, the 39th Street Gay Enclave, the Capitol-Medical districts, the Asian District which got a new streetscape that is spurring urban development – basically the entire north side is becoming an urban masterpiece.

    Individual urban developments can be researched on OKC Talk’s urban development database and forum:
    http://www.okctalk.com/forumdisplay.php?f=145

  41. C Miller

    Thank you so much for such a classy article! It is hard to read some of the other articles about this city lately and this is definitely a breath of fresh air. I appreciate that you took the time to do actual research instead of just stating opinions.

    My husband and I have visited SA three times and are planning on taking our toddler for the first time this fall. We love the River Walk and the zoo.

  42. Rick Weldon

    I appreciated your article very much and further enjoyed the comments following. I have had the pleasure of living right in the heart of BrickTown in a loft overlooking the canal. Just across the canal is the building housing ACM@UCO an unique educational facility/opportunity for folks interested in a career in music. The only other Academy of Contemporary Music is in England. The University of Central Oklahoma joined with ACM to provide a unique curriculum right in the heart of the entertainment district. On any day of the week I can hear live music and I don’t have to walk more than a block and a half to do so.
    I have watched ducklings grow into full fledged ducks and watched geese wander the sidewalks along the canal.
    The numerous places to eat range from from inexpensive to …goodness gracious! The folks who work and play in my neighborhood are great, and, they come from all over the world. I have posted some pics, not too recently updated however, on my face book page. They are denominated: Rick Weldon’s Neighborhood!
    Thanks again for the article.

  43. Jess

    I’ve lived in OKC for about 6 years now and have to say it’s impressive to witness the amount of pride this city has developed. People here are very proud of the progress and direction of the city and not ashamed to say it. Most people that haven’t been here in a while or never, are surprised. Everyone has a stereotype of a dusty, boring cowtown. I noticed one other person has said it already, but what most people are shocked to know we have become big time in rowing. Public and private development along the river has created world class rowing. Not only is Bricktown and downtown transformed, so has the actual river. Not many cities have the chance to extend and develop areas of their downtowns the way OKC has the ability to. There’s much more planned over the next 5-10 years!

    • Larry in OKC

      This is certainly true, the joke went (but it was true too), that our riverbed had to be mowed a couple of times a year…that is definitely no longer the case!

  44. Robert Rivard

    It would be bad sportsmanship not to acknowledge the beating the Thunder gave the Spurs last night in Game Three. Congrats to all our OKC readers. Makes things interesting.

  45. Caryl Hutcheson

    I came to Oklahoma City in May for a graduation and vacation. Loved every minute there and enjoyed the sights. Would have loved to stay a few more days.Went to memorial and Bricktown and can not say enough how every where we went people were friendly and helpful. Will vacation there again!

  46. David Enochs

    Thank you for this article, I may be young at 30, but in 30 years I have seen this city and our state grow into something amazing. As a kid I cheered for the Spurs and was a HUGE David Robinson fan and always wished that one day OKC would have a pro team. Now we have the Thunder and are getting to shine and compete with great teams like the Spurs. It’s wonderful to actually read an article that is positive like yours and it makes me feel proud be be an Oklahoman.

    Thank You,
    David
    GO THUNDER!!!

  47. Scott Rader

    I found out about your blog/column in the local OKC paper.(BTW – calling it “Oak City” is like saying “Frisco” for San Francisco, if readers can appreciate that comparison.) Thank you for the mature and flattering opinion. I’ve lived in the OKC metro area since I came to OU in 1966 as a freshman. I recall the downtown at that time had stores like C.R. Anthony and the like. After that, for a while it was nothing, and now it is a hub of activity, not just Bricktown but the offshoots it inspired. The rowing venues at the Oklahoma River are world class, as evidenced by them being named as Olympic training sites. They also have drag boat races there. Other geographical and structural features have been mentioned already, and most are in the downtown area or very close to it. The whole metro area, not just OKC, is vibrant and alive. I still live in Norman (I’ve moved away a couple of times for work purpsoes and always find a reason to come back – From San Francisco, Colombus OH, Toronto, et al). We OKIES (we don’t mind that term these days, unless we perceive it is being used pejoratively) have been misrepresented and mistundestood pretty much since the Grapes of Wrath was written, and then filmed. That was close to a century ago, yet some still believe that represents Oklahoma and Oklahomans today. The MAPS project(s) has been brilliantly conceived and carried out, to date. Of course SA is larger than OKC, by an order of 2:1, but that doesn’t make OKC a starving-for-growth cow town. We encourage people to come see what is here. Norman is arguably the center of the country, if not the world, in severe storms research and development. Try a tour of their relativley new facilities on the south side of Norman next time you’re in this neck of the woods. Just one of the things the OKC Metro area has to offer. But one doesn’t need to leave OKC to have all they want to do and see. Check out the Dale Chihouly blown glass exhibit at the OKC Museum of Art, which has one of the largest collections of his work in the world, including an almost-40 foot tall glass “sculpture” made up of hundreds of indvidual pieces of blown glass. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBEL96pMrQ4) None of this would have happened if not for MAPS 2, in my opinion, event though some of them weren’t part of the original plan.
    I’m Texas-bred (Jr and Sr high school in Pampa) but I feel like a lifetime Okie by now, so my loyalties are with the Thunder, but can live with the Spurs in the championship game if that is how it ends up.
    Thanks again for the sentiments.

  48. Charlotte

    Thank you for your very well written article on Oklahoma City. I was born and raised in Oklahoma, then lived in San Antonio for 10 yrs after my children were adults and away from home. I loved every minute in SA and my adult children referred to it as “The Resort”, but I had a business opportunity (after the Murrah Bldg bombing)and returned to Oklahoma. Most of my friends in SA were startled I would move back and were very vocal, mostly in negative terms, about my decision. I am delighted you have highlighted so many of the wonderful attributes of this community to share with my friends in San Antonio. I love my visits back to San Antonio and all its wonderful venues, residents, and food!! Please keep in touch. There will be many more Spurs and Thunder games as well as other reasons to share visits in both cities!!

  49. Juan

    Robert
    Interesting article. I travel to OKC and Tulsa quite a bit as part my job. I have to say that you’ve exposed to our SA readers something I’ve known for sometime about OKC and Tulsa for that matter. Both cities seem to have figured out how to bring aspects of their business community as well as their cultural resources together to energize a resurgence in their downtown’s. The Blue Dome District of Tulsa is full of life and energy. I find it interesting that while San Antonio can rightly claim a richer historical past and perhaps a richer diversified cultural context, we can certainly learn from cities like OKC and Tulsa. I’m a life long resident of San Antonio and a denizen of Dignowity Hill. My hope is that we as a city can find a way to put aside some of the
    “provincial” thinking that sometimes gets in the way of creating a great city.

  50. Larry in OKC

    Mr. Rivard: your blog was mentioned …in a good way… in an Oklahoman editorial (think it was Saturday)

  51. Robert Rivard

    Congratulations to the Thunder and OKC. That four game “sweep” of the Spurs after going down 2-0 was an astonishing display of youth, talent and desire. The best thing about this tough letdown for Spurs fans at The Rivard Report has been the incredible exchanges we enjoyed with so many people in Oklahoma City and beyond. I’ll be rooting for you guys to bring home the NBA Championship. The one thing you can’t say about the Brickyard is that it’s hosted an NBA title celebration. I hope that asterisk is removed when the Finals are over. –Robert Rivard, The Rivard Report

    • Mark Towler

      Robert,
      It’s an understatement to say that those of us in OKC are impressed with the class shown by the Spurs and it’s fans. From your original article that started all of this discussion to the complimentary things said by Ginobili and Coach Popovich after the game last night, we have seen the best of what pro sports has to offer. No matter what happens next, this has been a memorable series and one most of us in OKC will never forget!

      All the best,
      Mark

  52. Kevin G Saunders

    What a fabulous article. It resonates with me because I recently undertook a 13 city architectural photography tour that should have included Oklahoma City but didn’t as I was unaware of this development. What I learned trudging on foot through all these cities was that some cities really get the fact that their downtowns are either a gem that attracts or a dying albatross, akin to current shopping malls. Cincinatti, Cleveland, Chicago Columbus all get it. Little Rock doesn’t. As an aside, I lived in Little Rock for over a decade and the ring of hatred of Texas and Texans still sounds in my mind. City bashing is rampant in many areas that have loyal sports followings and Bob’s article reminds us how foolish it is.

    I do wish to help in any way and ask others to do the same so we can bring San Antonio to the forefront of urban renaissance. It is not easy but it can be done. If Oklahoma City can do it, we can too!


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