Work on the city’s long-promised BMX facility will begin this week with a ground-breaking ceremony scheduled for Friday at the former Evans-Fintube property north of downtown.
The project is expected to be completed in 2021.
“I am definitely excited about this project moving forward,” said City Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper. “I am more excited about the follow-up development that is coming to this space in the historic Greenwood boundaries and what ultimately can result from that.”
Tulsa voters approved $15 million for the construction of an Olympic-quality BMX track and a headquarters and hall of fame for USA BMX in April 2016 as part of the Vision Tulsa sales tax package.
Leading up to the vote, proponents of the project said they hoped to have the facilities built in time for Tulsa to host the BMX Olympic trials in 2020, but that plan soon fell apart.
Negotiations between USA BMX and Expo Square to build the project at the fairgrounds broke down in June 2017 over beverage sales rights, leaving the city scrambling to find a new site.
A month later, Mayor G.T. Bynum and other local officials gathered at the Evans-Fintube property, at 118 N. Lansing Ave., to announce that the BMX facilities would be built there. They continued to express their desire to have them completed in time for the Olympic Trials.
After several more stops and starts, city officials this year acknowledged that the cost of the project had increased to $22.8 million and would not be completed until 2021.
Nick Doctor, the city’s chief of community development and policy, said at the time that two factors contributed to the cost increase and delay in the construction schedule: moving the project from Expo Square to the Evans-Fintube property, and rising material costs.
The city is using four funding sources to bridge the $8 million gap between the $15 million approved by voters and the actual $23 million price tag: $3.6 million in Vision Tulsa funding reallocated from University Center at Tulsa/OSU-Tulsa; $900,000 from the Economic Development Infrastructure Fund; $2 million from the Tulsa Parking Authority; and a $1.5 million gift to USA BMX from the Hardesty Family Foundation.
The latest amended lease agreement between the city and American Bicycle Association states that the cost of the project shall not exceed $23 million.
Mayor G.T. Bynum said he is excited to see the project finally get off the ground after the city had to adjust its plans when the fairgrounds location fell through.
“There was a danger that we might lose this world-class attraction that is supposed to bring over 100,000 people a year to our city,” the mayor said. “So for us to now have found what I think is an even better location that is in the Evans-Fintube site that we think will draw more and more visitors into the Greenwood District and have a ripple effect from an economic development standpoint, it’s really exciting,” the mayor said.
The BMX arena, headquarters and hall of fame will be constructed on the north end of the 22-acre property. It is expected to include a 2,000-seat outdoor arena, with a roof; an adjacent USA BMX headquarters and hall of fame; and an approximately 300-space parking lot.
The Fintube building, on the north end of the site, will be demolished to make room for the parking lot. The Evans building, also known as the Oklahoma Iron Works Building, is on the National Register of Historic Places. It will remain on the property and be incorporated into the city’s request for proposals for a mixed-use development on the site.
Hall-Harper said she hopes that whatever development comes to the site will fit well with and honor the legacy of historic Black Wall Street by providing business opportunities for black businesses and entrepreneurs.
“Of course, BMX will give us that footprint that is going to provide that foot traffic needed for successful businesses in the future,” she said.