Competition for convention dollars can be cutthroat.
But Tulsa is in the process of enhancing its allure.
The Cox Business Center is undergoing a $55 million facelift, which is halfway finished.
“Everybody loves being a shiny new penny,” Angie Teel, assistant general manager of the facility, said Thursday during a tour of the Vision Builders-led renovation. “We do have a little bit of competition with our neighbors down the road. Oklahoma City is opening a brand new ($250 million) convention center. But I also see it as an opportunity to partner with them. …
“We could definitely partner and get some of that regional business — us, Oklahoma City, Wichita. We’re kind of in this great triangle where we can share some of that business and get it on a rotational basis.”
Expected to be completed in August 2020, the refurbishing will feature a Grand Hall, a 41,470-square-foot multipurpose space with a 38-foot ceiling. Beautifying the east entryway will be the Grand Gallery with a three-story glass atrium and 4,800 square feet of prefunction space. The Grand Hall can be divided into thirds, said Andrew Witte, Vision Builders senior project manager.
The facility, which will have 275,000 square feet of rentable space, has drawn more than 300,000 visitors over the past year, Teel said.
“Convention centers thrive on occupancy rate,” she said. “This space is really going to help us drive that just because it is multifunctional.”
The convention center opened in 1964 as the Tulsa Civic Assembly Center. It was renamed the James L. Maxwell Convention Center in 1985 in honor of former Mayor Jim Maxwell. It later went by Tulsa Convention Center before being renamed the Cox Business Center in 2013.
The new project is being funded through the Vision Tulsa sales tax package OK’d by voters in 2016.
Included in the renovation are new lighting systems and refurbished meeting and dressing rooms. Both the assembly and conference halls will receive technical and cosmetic upgrades, and $5 million is being devoted to a new kitchen. The former arena floor has been converted to storage and staging areas.
“It’s important for the whole city because we’re making ourselves a true competitor for state and national conventions,” said Holly Beal, marketing and communications manager for Cox Business Center. “We get overlooked all the time by peer markets, whether that’s Wichita or Oklahoma City. …
“This whole thing can support a state or national conference. Meanwhile, you have a sporting event and an exhibit hall and a trade show. You have a nonprofit gala ballroom down there. We are just maximizing the building space.”