In 2003, Tulsa County voters approved a penny sales tax that ushered in multiple developments, one of which became the highly recognizable, $180 million BOK Center.
The building opened five years later, but it’s hard to imagine a time before it came to dominate the economic landscape of downtown Tulsa.
General Manager Jeff Nickler says the 19,000-plus-seat arena has held more than 500 shows in its 10 years, including world famous acts Garth Brooks (seven sold-out shows), Madonna (her first and only Oklahoma stop), Paul McCartney and Lady Gaga. Memories have definitely been made at the venue, but its commercial impact is far less ephemeral.
“The construction of BOK Center was a catalyst for the rebirth of downtown,” Nickler says. “Since the arena opened, downtown has seen over $1 billion in private development. In addition, the BOK Center has had an estimated $350 million in economic impact on Tulsa over the past decade.”
Representatives from the Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce agree – the BOK Center continues to breathe life into the city.
“Since the BOK Center opened, five hotels have opened downtown, and four more are under construction and opening within the next year,” says Jarrel Wade, a chamber senior account executive. “Downtown is [also] home to the Woody Guthrie Center, and will soon boast the OKPOP Museum and Bob Dylan Center, both under development.
“Since the BOK Center opening … public investments include the $39 million ONEOK Field, home to the Tulsa Drillers baseball team since 2010, and the $55 million Cox Business Center renovation, which is underway. The BOK arena sold its 5 millionth ticket in 2015 and was named Pollstar’s No. 7 arena in the U.S. and No. 24 worldwide this year. Downtown property values have increased an average of 7 percent each year since 2008.”
To celebrate 10 years of success, Nickler says many events and changes are planned at the BOK Center, including a “10 for 10” concert series with performers Justin Timberlake, George Strait, Metallica and the Eagles (who played the first show at the arena). In addition, $6 million in upgrades include luxury suites, new signage and state-of-the-art public Wi-Fi.
Chesapeake Energy Arena Similarly Boosts OKC
Over the years, it’s been known by a few names: the Ford Center, the Oklahoma City Arena, the ’Peake. Regardless of what you call it, the Chesapeake Energy Arena has been the heart of downtown OKC development since 2002.
The building became home to the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2008, and downtown has felt the ripple effect of success. In the past 10 years, according to the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, downtown has added about 1,000 hotel rooms, attracted 3 million more annual visitors and become one of the fastest-growing neighborhoods in the city. Businesses have hired more than 25,000 employees and more than 10 million rabid NBA fans have attended Thunder games at the arena.