The Oklahoma City sports mantra is straightforward: any sport, any time, any place. It takes a first-class city with a deep bench of remarkable facilities to balance all of the sports action you’ll find in Oklahoma City. A robust roster of youth and adult tournaments and championships call the city home, along with a full slate of college championship games in baseball, softball and basketball.
It may sound like a lot, but the Oklahoma City secret is always bringing its A game, and OKC does that with experience, support—such as the city’s event sponsorship program—and the leadership of two dedicated sports event specialists, Sue Hollenbeck and Holly Shelton.
“It’s truly an asset, both to our city and to the sports event organizers who bring their events to Oklahoma City, that we are able to provide the experience and undivided attention of two dedicated sports specialists,” says Elisa Milbourn, communications manager, Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau. “That’s just how we do things in Oklahoma City, always the very best and always with a personal touch.”
OKC is also home to the Oklahoma City All Sports Association, one of the oldest sports commissions in the country. With more than 50 years’ service to the Oklahoma City community, the non-profit organization supports and maintains more than 250 events annually in Oklahoma City including 30-plus NCAA championships since 1983.
The Crossroads of Sports
Oklahoma City is the largest city in the state, located at the crossroads of I-35, I-40 and I-44 in the heart of Oklahoma. The second largest city in the continental U.S. based on geographical size, metropolitan Oklahoma City is home to more than 1.2 million people, and it’s a destination infused with a rich blend of historical and contemporary character.
The climate also gets some of the city’s most enthusiastic reviews from visitors. Oklahoma City enjoys four distinct seasons and an average temperature of 60F/15C. With more than 3,000 hours of sunshine per year, Oklahoma City and its visitors also enjoy a lot of time in the great outdoors. But don’t think all of this beautiful weather means OKC is short on sensational indoor sports because this is one city that shines, inside and out.
Oklahoma City has so many sports opportunities and facilities, set into so many exciting neighborhoods and districts, that it’s easier to get a handle on OKC’s offerings if you take it in sections. One thing to keep in mind: these neighborhoods are sometimes just blocks away from one another. For example, an event at the Cox Convention Center in downtown OKC is just a quick walk to the restaurants and sights of Bricktown. Oklahoma City is not just sports-friendly and family-friendly; it’s pedestrian-friendly too.
Home to AHL hockey, Triple-A baseball, and NBA basketball, as well as wresting, baseball, basketball and world-class rowing and canoe/kayak, downtown Oklahoma City offers some of the most exceptional facilities in America.
· Chesapeake Energy Arena, home of the NBA Oklahoma City Thunder, is owned by the City of Oklahoma City and managed by SMG, which since 1977 has provided management services to over 200 public assembly facilities, including OKC’s own Chesapeake Energy Arena and the neighboring Cox Convention Center. In fall 2011, Chesapeake Energy Arena greeted fans with a remodeled main concourse, new food and drink options and several new video boards.
· The Oklahoma River Boathouse District is fast becoming one of the world’s premier venues for rowing and canoe/kayak and includes the Chesapeake Boathouse, the Devon Boathouse—home of Oklahoma City University Rowing—and the Chesapeake Finish Line Tower. Each year, the river is the site of numerous regattas and is now a U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Site. Races in 2012 will include Corporate Challenge Racing, Central District Youth Championships and Oklahoma City University (OCU) Head of the Oklahoma Regatta/Rowing World Challenge.
· The Cox Convention Center, just steps away from a number of downtown hotels and the vibrant Bricktown Entertainment District, features 100,000 square feet of exhibit space, a 25,000-square-foot ballroom and 21 meeting rooms. At the heart of the center is the almost 15,000-seat arena, designed with generous seating for concerts, conventions and sporting events, and home to the American Hockey League (AHL) Oklahoma City Barons.
· The Oklahoma City Tennis Center is the perfect place to play for athletes of any level. With 24 lighted courts, modern pro shop, upgraded sports lighting, misting stations and covered seating areas, this is Oklahoma City’s premiere outdoor tennis facility, hosting multiple USTA and local tournaments each year. The tennis center also offers idyllic surroundings, located within historic Will Rogers Park, which offers easy access the Ed Lycan Conservatory, the Charles E. Sparks Rose Garden, the Margaret Annis Boys Arboretum and the Will Rogers Garden Exhibition Center.
One current initiative, Project 180, is a four-year, $154 million redesign of Oklahoma City’s downtown streets, sidewalks, parks and plazas to enhance the appearance of the city’s core and make it more pedestrian-friendly. Plans include public art, marked bike lanes, decorative street lighting and additional on-street parking spaces.
Also included in the first phase of Project 180, which is nearing completion, is the dramatic transformation of the Myriad Botanical Gardens, including the addition of a grand performance lawn, a children's discovery garden and play area, water features, a restaurant, a dog release area and a new grand entrance to the Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory. A centerpiece of the downtown area, the gardens offer a favorite gathering place for athletes, fans and families competing in one of downtown’s extraordinary facilities.
Once a busy warehouse area, Bricktown was transformed by another of OKC’s initiatives, MAPS (Metropolitan Area Projects). Unequaled in any other city, MAPS is OKC’s visionary capital improvement program for new and upgraded sports, recreation, entertainment, educational, cultural and convention facilities.
Today Bricktown is Oklahoma City’s hottest entertainment and dining district with dozens of restaurants, shopping, entertainment and, of course, sports venues. RedHawks Field at Bricktown, home of the Oklahoma City RedHawks Triple-A-Baseball Team, offers exciting baseball and great family fun each spring and summer. Known affectionately as "The Brick," the ballpark has hosted the Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship for 11 of the past 13 years and will again host the championship in 2012. Collegiate play is highlighted by the annual Oklahoma State University vs. The University of Oklahoma Bedlam Series each May.
All Around Town
Greater Oklahoma City offers so many outstanding venues that an exhaustive list of them would be, well … exhausting. The full list can be found in the Oklahoma City Sports Facility Guide at www.visitokc.com/sports, and here are a few highlights:
· The Oklahoma City Community College Aquatics Center made its debut when the 1989 U.S. Olympic Festival was held in Oklahoma City. It features an eight-lane, 50-meter swimming pool with moveable bulkhead and a separate 18-foot diving well with four springboards and three platforms.
· The OKC Adventure District draws more than 3.3 million people to watch a great horse race or softball game as well as to visit 2,200 exotic animals, try their luck at the slot machines and see John Wayne paraphernalia. The District features the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) National Softball Hall of Fame and Museum, as well as the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium, host some of the world’s top softball events, such as the NCAA Women’s College World Series and the World Cup of Softball.
Build Something in OKC
As a city that constantly redefines itself while retaining close ties to its heritage, Oklahoma City is a place where culture and commerce thrive. It’s a place that knows how to build something exciting and successful, and it’s a place that’s ready to share that experience and all of its famous enthusiasm with your next sports event. Find out more at www.visitokc.com/sports.