Mayor Kathy Taylor and Tulsa Drillers owner Chuck Lamson announced today that they have entered into an exclusive agreement to negotiate terms to bring the Tulsa Drillers to Downtown Tulsa.
"Over the past few months, we have worked diligently with national experts and passionate Tulsans to bring the Tulsa Drillers to downtown," said Mayor Kathy Taylor. "The Tulsa Drillers are part of Tulsa's history, more importantly they are a key to our future."
Taylor and the city's planning and economic development team have been working with Lamson and his advisors and have traveled to stadiums around the country to outline what Tulsa's future downtown stadium could look like and the impact it could make.
"We are excited about the possibility of anchoring a downtown revitalization. A new ballpark is critical to our continuing success as a franchise," said Lamson. "We appreciate the Mayor and her team's efforts in bringing this agreement about. We look forward to taking this window of opportunity and turning it into a reality."
Councilor Maria Barnes, who has been one of the city councilors actively involved on the project team, witnessed downtown revitalization spurred by ballparks in other cities. The Tulsa Drillers new home would be in the Councilor's district. "Having a variety of entertainment options downtown is a significant piece of the puzzle that ensures we have a vibrant downtown," said Councilor Barnes. "I believe making downtown the home of the Tulsa Drillers can move the city forward and increase housing, retail and restaurant opportunities."
Lamson and Taylor signed the agreement late Monday. It will provide an exclusive period for sole negotiation between the city and the Drillers with a target date of May 30, 2008 for signing a definitive agreement.
In addition to entering into an exclusive right to negotiate, the City has contracts on several properties comprising approximately 16 acres on the East side of Downtown Tulsa in what was previously planned as a mixed use development to be anchored by an urban Wal-Mart.
To capitalize on the unique opportunities within the City of Tulsa, the City recently contracted with global real estate services company Jones Lang LaSalle to manage the marketing and redevelopment of several city-owned properties. Jones Lang LaSalle's extensive experience in construction management and real estate finance includes many sports stadiums and other large cultural amenities that serve as magnets for economic growth.
The City is currently considering various funding sources for the project. "At this point several funding options are being fully explored with the assistance of Jones Lang LaSalle, community leaders, the Drillers and city staff," said Mayor Taylor. "We want to ensure the appropriate balance of funding that will support this project and keeps the Drillers in Tulsa as a strong and permanent fixture in the community. We anticipate that the final funding approach will have a component of private community based funding. We will rely on our team of experts both locally and from Jones Lang LaSalle to guide the process." Don Himelfarb, the former Director of Economic Development for the City will continue to serve on the project team as an unpaid consultant.
"It is our experience that baseball parks work well in downtown urban locations. Downtown ballparks have been huge successes in Oklahoma City, Memphis, Toledo and Indianapolis," said Kurt Little Managing Director at Jones Lang LaSalle. "We believe this holds true for Tulsa as well."
Dr. Mark Snead, a research economist and Director of the Center for Applied Economic Research at Oklahoma State University, states that many cities view "stadium construction as an economic development tool and the use of minor league baseball as a means for stimulating local economic growth."
Dr. Jack Crowley, who recently began directing the City of Tulsa's planning team, commented, "The time is right and the location is perfect for this venue. The pieces of downtown development are beginning to come together and this is a major piece of the puzzle."
"This is a great day for Tulsa and a positive step forward for the Tulsa Drillers," said Taylor. "We have enjoyed working with Chuck Lamson and his team and look forward to continued efforts in order to make Tulsa's downtown ballpark a true quality of life issue for Tulsa families. But more importantly, this is an opportunity for the next generation of Tulsans to have the simple pleasure their parents and grandparents enjoyed: to take their kids to a baseball game in their hometown.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.