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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — In Tuesday morning’s regular meeting of the City Council of Oklahoma City, the Council voted to approve use of TIF funds for the development of a resort and water park adjacent to the First Americans Museum by the Chickasaw Nation.

The Council also approved the sale of Oklahoma City’s oldest public park to a private developer. Stiles Park, established in 1901, will now be sold to BT Development, LLC who is building a hotel and “innovation center” around the site in the so-called Innovation District on Oklahoma City’s near-Northeast side.

The Council also adopted a resolution showing gratitude to all who have served on the USS Oklahoma City, a Los Angeles-class attack submarine that is being decommissioned later this month. Councilmembers Carter, Nice, and Stonecipher will deliver that resolution in person at the decommissioning ceremony.

Marty Peercy reports Local government

Resort Funding

JoAnna McSpadden of the Oklahoma City Economic Development Trust and Chad Clayborn representing the Chickasaw Nation gave a presentation to Council about the proposed OKANA Resort and Water Park project planned by the Nation.

Tuesday’s request was for $102,200,000 to aid the Chickasaw Nation in building a destination resort and water park adjacent to the First Americans Museum that opened late last year.

The money will come from two Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Districts, TIFs numbers A and 14.

The total estimated cost of the development is over $342 million, with the Chickasaw Nation covering the costs beyond the TIF funds.

The project, called OKANA, will include an 11 floor hotel with over 400 rooms, a 100,000 square feet indoor water park, an approximately 4.5 acre outdoor “adventure lagoon,” a large retail space associated with the museum, and 36,000 sq ft of leasable retail and dining space. The resort will also feature a ferry landing on the Oklahoma River.

The project will spend approximately $34 million on site amelioration and preparation, as the site was formerly an oil field.

Site preparation began in March. Groundbreaking is to be determined, with a hopeful opening date in the second Quarter of 2024.

Council unanimously approved the item as part of the Consent Docket at Tuesday’s meeting.

Stiles Park

On Tuesday the Council approved two related and controversial items in order to sell a public park.

Stiles Park, established in 1901 six years before Oklahoma statehood, is located at N.E. 8th Street and Stiles Circle in what has come to be deemed the “Innovation District.” It is also called “Stiles Circle Park.”

On Tuesday, a divided City Council approved the waiver of the Council’s own rules in order to sell the public land to a private developer, BT Development, LLC. That developer is currently building a hotel and “innovation hall” as part of the MAPS 4 slate of publicly funded projects, many of which will further enhance the Innovation District.

In 2018 the Council approved a resolution requiring a three-meeting process for the sale of publicly owned real estate.

In 2022, the decision was made in a not-fully-transparent fashion to waive that process. In fact, the sale was included on the Consent Docket of Tuesday’s agenda, making it one of a long slate of items to be taken up with one vote.

Stiles Circle Park in OKC on Google Maps

Ward 7 Councilwoman Nikki Nice expressed disappointment and frustration at the sale, and the process of preparing the sale.

Nice said that many “Innovation Districts” are placed in a particular type of community, and typically don’t consider or benefit those communities.

Ward 5 Councilman David Greenwell praised the success of private-public partnerships in Dublin, Ireland and claimed that the future of Oklahoma City relies on those partnerships.

Ward 2 Councilman James Cooper said that he feared the privatization of all services the government is responsible for, comparing that scenario to the popular dystopian 1987 sci-fi film RoboCop.

The Council voted in favor of waiving the rules and selling the public park with all members but Nice, Cooper, and Ward 6 Councilperson JoBeth Hamon* voting in the affirmative.

The agreement will allow the City to retain ownership of the 11-foot circle including the Beacon of Hope. The purchaser will maintain the park to the Parks Department standards, according to the agreement.

The Council will meet again for a special Budget Hearing on Tuesday, May 17 at 8:30 a.m.

*Disclosure: Reporter Marty Peercy is the husband of Oklahoma City Council member JoBeth Hamon.

Last Updated May 10, 2022, 2:10 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor