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New OKC arena out to bid–for equines, not cagers

The Oklahoma City Council will open bidding shortly for a new $102-million OKC Fairgrounds arena, replacing Jim Norick Arena as the busiest venue in the city.

There’s been a lot of discussion and debate surrounding a new Oklahoma City Thunder (NBA), but in terms of economic impact, facilities like the OKC Fairgrounds arena are bread-and-butter buildings. Here’s a look at the economic impact of the new arena from Ron Norick, chairman of the Oklahoma State Fair board of directors and the son of arena namesake Jim Norick:

Norick said the horse shows generate about 185,000 hotel room stays a year. Events bring about 1.3 million visitors to the fairgrounds annually, with 47% coming from out of the state. “And when you add the fair to it, we have more than 2.1 million people,” he said.

A 2019 study by Crossroads Consulting found a new fairgrounds coliseum would generate more than $230 million a year in direct spending and more than $400 million a year in total economic impact….

“It’s a really flexible space. It can go from about 5,000 seats in an equine and livestock setup up to about 8,000 seats for a basketball or concert type of setup,” he said.

In addition to the public spaces, the new arena will feature a larger footprint for booth/exhibition space, a lounge, bar and expanded concessions. The funding plan calls on some of the same public money eyeballed for a new Thunder arena–$55.5 million from MAPS 4 tax collections–with an additional $21.8 million from hotel taxes. Opening is expected in 2024.

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