The OKC Streetcar is set to begin normal operations in December. The new, state of the art convention center is due to open doors in 2020. We stand in an era of unprecedented growth, but new residents may not know how the decisions of Oklahoma City voters led us to this path.
Our remarkable productivity today was born after Oklahoma City experienced an energy downturn in the late ‘70s and ‘80s. Hungry for a way to boost economic development and reinvestment, Oklahoma City Mayor Ronald Norick proposed the Metropolitan Area Projects, a capital improvement program to be funded by a temporary one-cent sales tax. MAPS was comprised of the following projects:
- Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark - Finished in 1998, the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark was the first major project of MAPS and served as the first testament to Oklahoma City’s renaissance and its close ties to the past.
- Improvements to the State Fairgrounds – The State Fairgrounds received a new livestock show facility, horse barns, and several other necessary renovations by this project’s completion in 1998.
- Creation of the Bricktown Canal – Completed in 1999 and improved in 2003 and 2004, the Bricktown Canal served as the first bridge to take back Bricktown from years of vacancy and crime. Now, the canal and the district are one of OKC’s main attractions.
- Creation of the Myriad (now Cox) Convention Center – Home to countless shows, exhibitions, graduations, and other events, the Cox Convention Center has been a hub for state and nationwide activity since its opening in 1999.
- Creation of the Spirit Trolley System – Predecessor to Oklahoma City’s growing public transit sector, the Spirit Trolley service began in 1999 and served the city for 11 years.
- Improvements to the Civic Center Music Hall – Home to the OKC Phil, the Lyric Theatre and others, the Civic Center was renovated in 2001. Stage advancements, a five-story atrium, and acoustic improvements were among other renovations.
- Creation of the Ford Center (now the Chesapeake Energy Arena) – Constructed in 2002 and considered the beating heart of Oklahoma City, the Chesapeake Energy Center is the home of the OKC Thunder and serves as one of the largest musical venues in the southern United States.
- Creation of the Oklahoma River Recreational Area – MAPS turned a seven-mile span of the North Canadian River into a series of river lakes for public use. Construction of the dam system, trails, landscaping, and other amenities finished in 2004.
- Creation of the Ronald J. Norick Downtown Library – The four-story library includes classrooms and a conference center, and is a part of the Metropolitan Library System. It was named for Mayor Norick upon its completion in 2004, marking the end of MAPS.
The first Metropolitan Area Projects differentiated from other improvements programs by funding projects debt free. As a result, MAPS and its successor programs, MAPS For Kids and MAPS 3, are model success stories that have spurred faster – and more fiscally responsible – investments than most cities throughout the U.S.
MAPS was a simple idea with a big impact, and it speaks as a testament to the ideals of Oklahoma City residents. When faced with crisis, we reinvent; when faced with a cause, we give; when faced with a quandary, we climb our way out. The Yes to MAPS campaign slogan in 1994 was “Believe in Our Future!”, and it seems like Oklahoma City residents believe more now than they ever have.
You can find out more about the history of MAPS, including interviews from prominent figures in OKC, at the City of Oklahoma City MAPS site here.