Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Tulsa Business Leaders Issue Call to Arms over Ballpark

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Tulsa Business Leaders Issue Call to Arms over Ballpark

Article excerpt

The rising tumult over downtown Tulsa's ballpark assessment district has some business leaders fearing the $60 million construction project may get stopped in its tracks.

The Tulsa Metro Chamber called on supporters Tuesday to attend Thursday night's Tulsa City Council meeting, which may consider whether to maintain the 30-year assessment district expected to provide $25 million of the ballpark's construction cost.

"It is critical that supporters of downtown revitalization, including Oneok Field, be visible and vocal at the Tulsa City Council meeting," a memo from chamber President Mike Neal said Tuesday.

Saying the project's future was "in jeopardy," the chamber memo urged supporters to have as many people attend as possible - while offering them a free shirt or hat from the Double-A minor league baseball team that would call the ballpark home, the Tulsa Drillers.

Backers of the ballpark, expected to be completed for the 2010 season, see the stadium as a new tourism magnet to accompany the 18,000-seat BOK Center opened last fall, as well as a year-round economic boost for a growing arts and entertainment district in the neighboring Brady and Blue Dome areas.

For the ball club, it would replace the aging Drillers Stadium on the Tulsa State Fairgrounds, adding modern conveniences expected of today's sporting and concert fans.

To accompany $30 million in privately generated funds and the $5 million Drillers lease, the council and Mayor Kathy Taylor agreed in July 2008 to extend downtown's expiring "main mall" assessment to fund the rest of the Oneok Field construction project. But instead of using a graduated assessment based on proximity to the field, the council approved a flat 6.5-cent-per-square-foot rate to nearly all properties in Tulsa's inner dispersal loop.

That immediately drew a lawsuit from several downtown property owners who claimed the new rate would dramatically increase their annual property payments. …

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