August, 2008

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Tulsa’s BOK Center Grand Opening

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

Went to the ribbon-cutting, etc. this morning. A bit hot for the crowd waiting to get in, but fortunately Mayor Taylor seems to have seen that the crowd was melting and spared us from the many on the platform who would no doubt have wanted to add “a few words.” The whole ribbon cutting ceremony with colors, music, etc. was held to less than thirty minutes. Thanks.

Now the really good part. The BOK Center, despite my misgivings of its need or how it was pulled off, is nonetheless a beautiful piece of work. The inside is mostly open without that hemmed-in feeling you get in most other large arenas as soon as you step out of the main performance area. We all got to experience the premium level areas as well. Very nice private boxes and lounges. Likely the only time I will ever see those.

An extra nice touch today was the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra playing at the west end of arena. Even with all the other activity, trade show booths on the floor, lots of folks and kids everywhere touring the place, the sound was still pretty nice up in the seats. Thanks to TSO for being willing to perform under those circumstances.

BOK Center - Tulsa

BOK Center - Tulsa

All in all I was very impressed by the interior of the facility. The exterior has its share of those that love it and those that think it looks like it is still covered in insulation board, BUT, it is ours and despite how we got it, I sincerely hope it bodes well for the community. Thanks to the city’s leadership for realizing that the folks that paid for it should get at least one good weekend to poke around in it and act like the rude relatives we sometimes are. Even the parking went smoothly, at least for us and those I asked about it.

Now if we can just figure out a way to keep the online scalpers from grabbing all the tickets and forcing us to pay double or more for events. My plan is pretty simple. Embargo online sales for the first 24 hours. Only allow live walk-up ticket sales with a maximum of say 6 or 8 tickets for the first 24 hours. This will not stop the resale for profit altogether, but will at least give the locals and those within a short drive a chance to actually get tickets for events at the face value of the ticket (plus the various “convenience” charges that always get added). I’m not sure the selected ticket vendor would like this, but then, that’s really beside the point. The tickets still get sold, so the only ones who would really complain is the scalpers.

Reconnecting with the Big Picture

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

Last night I made an observation that helped me put things back in their true perspective. Looking up into the southwestern sky, I can see our big, bright, neighborhood giant, Jupiter. With only the aid of a 45x spotting scope I can clearly see several bright points around the large sphere. Those bright points are four of Jupiter’s moons. These four, the Galilean moons, are: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. These can be seen through a good set of binoculars, if you can hold steady enough.

Looking up and seeing these and knowing that these are the same four bright points observed by Galileo and others helps to remind me that this whole world is both tiny and yet long enduring, at least on man’s time scale. When I get too wound up about the latest plans of the local oligarchy to construct a great and wonderful downtown, whether we like it or not, it helps to step back, look up and think about the big picture. These annoyances about process in a supposedly free and open government will pass and we will likely eventually accept the completed trails, stadiums, carefully crafted developments and the like, even though they may be nothing like what “we” would have liked.

Do we really know or care about the volcanic activity on Io? Does Ganymede know or care that there are political conventions or stadium trusts on Earth? No, I think to both questions. So I remind myself to relax and remember the Golden Rule, “those with the gold make the rules.” Little has changed on the blue planet for thousands of years. Technology advances, but man is pretty much the same.

Drillers Stadium downtown, another “special” subsidized business

Monday, August 25th, 2008

First of all, I actually like going to Drillers games. It’s fun, relatively inexpensive and it’s actually live entertainment. When we used to live much closer to the fairgrounds, we went to several a month and often took friends or their kids as well. That being said, I cannot help but wonder why this particular form of entertainment is so “special” that it rates a subsidized deal to get it a new facility. This is simply another form of entertainment, not substantially different than a movie theater or a skeet field.

Further, what really bothers me about this whole thing is the creation of yet another “trust” to essentially govern not only the downtown stadium, but all the other lands they manage to grab in the deal. We’re making another group that functions with the power of government, but with no accountability to the voters if they act in capricious or unapproved ways. At least one councilor has observed that the trust documents presented allow the stadium trust to pretty much build anything they want, whether in competition to a private business or not. We have got to stop setting up these little principalities that have the force of elected bodies but never stand for election. Yes, there is supposedly the safeguard of having the City Council have to approve the appointments, but all they usually can do is either approve or deny recommendations from the Mayor, they still don’t even have to stand on a retention ballot like some of the judiciary. They may as well be appointed for life as they are only denied reappointment if there is a major fiasco. Even the recent pathetically transparent actions by some on the TDA will likely pass without consequence to those tDA members.

The second issue on the Stadium deal is that now we find out, according to the local daily, that the Drillers get to manage any and all events within the stadium complex. There is some lame excuse about having to maintain the field quality. Clearly, while the Drillers have been at the fairgrounds they have seen how a deal like that for Murphy Brothers can work and want a similar sweetheart package for the Drillers. Perhaps we now know why the negotiations have taken so long. I can’t blame the Drillers owner for wanting such a deal if he can get it. He has publicly stated some time ago that he wanted something more like a full-blown amusement park with baseball as a part of it. As long as various government entities are willing to hand out little-or-no-risk packages in the name of economic development to a select few, why not try to grab one.

I do however, blame the city “leaders” for being willing to grant such deals. When we look just few miles down the river and see what Jenks is getting done with no risk to the public, we should be demanding the same sort of smart business deals from our executive management. Experience in business was one of the strengths for Kathy Taylor when she was running for the job. Now we have to wonder if she too has succumbed to the mindset that anything is acceptable in the name of downtown economic development.

Yes, we will continue to get a sprinkling of clubs and eateries here and there in the downtown, but the word is out that if you want to do something bigger, just add a few more zeros to the package size and get the local government to lean on the philanthropic foundations and sweeten it with some local tax money. No real reason why a developer should have to take all the risk to get all the rewards.

The sad thing is that I believe that those pushing this deal really mean well. Heck the Mayor is putting up some large money personally to help it along. It’s just that there is no reason why this well-meaning effort has to transform into another non-accountable principality and give a “special” business a sweetheart package that isn’t available to the many others who are trying to put something together in Tulsa.

If this stadium/multi-use facility gets built this way, just guess where Mayfest will move. You think the food and drink prices are high now, just wait. Oh yes, there will be a small “convenience” charge to get in to Mayfest at the Driller park, and leave your bottle of water outside in the paid parking area.

The City Council just needs to look down the river a little to see how these things can be done.

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For another view that is very well written and provides more inside information, please read the letter from Bob Sober to the Tulsa City Councilors, posted on BatesLine, along with Michael’s commentary.

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Back on the bitwaves

Monday, August 25th, 2008

The aRdent blog is back after a lengthy hiatus. Too much weirdness going on in the city and the world to keep silent any longer. More fair comment and criticism coming, along with pleasant observations as well. It’s just as important to point out the positive for praise as it is to critique that which looks negative from this perspective.