Drillers lease OK'd in principle
BY P.J. LASSEK World Staff Writer
Sunday, August 24, 2008
6/30/09 at 3:42 PM
Next, a trust that will own the stadium must be created.
A long-anticipated lease agreement with the Tulsa Drillers has been reached "in principle," moving the city closer to building a downtown ballpark, officials announced Saturday.
Some issues still need to be sorted out and the legal contract written, but the major terms are agreed upon, Drillers owner Chuck Lamson said prior to a morning news conference at the proposed ballpark site in the historic Greenwood District.
DRILLERS BALLPARK from Mike Simons on Vimeo.
But before any agreement can be signed, Mayor Kathy Taylor said, the City Council must approve the creation of a proposed public trust that will own the stadium and oversee the redevelopment of land surrounding it.
The contract would be between the Drillers and the trust. Councilor Eric Gomez, who was present at the news conference, said he expects approval of the trust at Thursday's council meeting.
"It's time to say, 'Let's play ball,' " Taylor said Saturday after more than seven months of negotiations that included four extensions.
"We're going to build a ballpark in downtown Tulsa . . . right here with this fabulous view of downtown Tulsa," she said.
The timing of the agreement allows for the stadium to be constructed and open in time for the Double A baseball team's 2010 season.
The stadium site nestles up against Interstate 244, bounded by Elgin Avenue and Archer Street and abutting the back side of the stores and offices along Greenwood Avenue.
The stadium is proposed to have 6,200 fixed seats, 25 luxury suites, picnic-style areas along grassy berms and amenities in common areas, including a party deck along the first-base line.
The overall ballpark project, however, extends beyond the stadium, capturing redevelopment opportunities south to the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railroad tracks and a good portion of the city blocks to the west toward Detroit Avenue.
The site connects the Greenwood District to the Blue Dome and Brady districts, which have seen private entertainment and restaurant development.
In late June, Taylor and ballpark backers said the project would cost $60 million, which includes construction of the stadium and acquisition of the surrounding land. They said the land would be sold to the trust at cost and the revenue from redeveloping those properties would go to pay off debt or long-term maintenance of the stadium.
Of the $60 million, private donors have pledged $30 million, another $25 million would be generated from a downtown property assessment district and $5 million would come from the Drillers' lease.
Lamson said during the news conference that he is excited about moving to downtown — "back here near where professional baseball started in Tulsa about 100 years ago."
He said he is committed to keeping "the great family atmosphere" that the team has provided through its years at the county fairgrounds.
Lamson said the Drillers will manage the stadium year-round, which will include other events such as concerts and holiday activities.
The objective is to generate more traffic to downtown and to boost the revitalization of the downtown area, Lamson said. The ballpark will bring an estimated 400,000 people downtown annually, Taylor said.
Officials have said the goal is to have 100 days of entertainment at the stadium, which includes 70 Drillers home games.
Lamson said prior to the news conference that whatever event happens at the stadium, it is important that the integrity of the playing surface be protected, a key element of the Drillers' relationship with its Major League parent team, the Colorado Rockies.
"I plan to maintain it to be the best (ballpark) in the Texas League, if not in all of the minor leagues," he said.
Taylor said having a multipurpose facility is in everyone's best interest. She said there should be as many events as possible to complement Drillers baseball.
Lamson said the length of the lease would be a minimum of 20 years and no longer than 30 years, at which time a downtown assessment fee helping to fund the ballpark will expire.
Lamson said that if he decides to sell the franchise, the trust has the right to make the first offer to purchase the Drillers.
The lease also would require annual capital contributions from both the Drillers and the trust to support maintenance of the ballpark, and provisions for both parties to share revenues from non-baseball events, according to a release from the mayor's office.
Taylor said the ballpark is "proof positive that Tulsa is on the move."
"This is another great step toward turning a business-centric center into a vibrant urban district that is no longer dead after dusk," Mike Neal, president and CEO of the Tulsa Metro Chamber, said in a statement e-mailed to the Tulsa World.
"Additional draws, such as a baseball stadium, to the downtown area will increase the pace of development and is a complement to the existing public and private investment in the BOK Center," Neal said. "We look forward to working with the City Council and Mayor Taylor's office to finalize the formation of the trust."
Gomez, who represents the downtown area, said the issue never has been "just about baseball, but the totality of the downtown development."
"Tulsans are going to open their eyes in a few years and ask, 'When did this all happen?' "
- City Council approval
of the creation of a public
trust that will own baseball
stadium, receive private
donations and oversee redevelopment
- Stadium trust and Drillers
- Stadium design finalized.
- Break ground this fall.
- Complete project in time
for 2010 baseball season.
P.J. Lassek 581-8382
Chuck Lamson of the Tulsa Drillers announces a tentativeagreement Saturday to terms of a lease for a downtown baseballstadium.