New Developments In OKC: Possible Arena Location, Airport Travel Grows

New details on our growing city: another possible home for the Thunder, and changes at WRWA.

Monday, February 5th 2024, 3:55 pm


New Developments In OKC

Possible Arena Location

Public documents reveal Oklahoma City conducted a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment on a privately owned location in its search for where the city will build its new arena.

The city previously completed the same assessment on the site of the Cox Convention Center, currently home to Prairie Surf Studios. In December, the city gave Prairie Surf notice it intended not to renew its lease when it expires at the end of 2025.

On Thursday, a city spokesperson confirmed the second assessment was also on a location under consideration for the new arena location. This site, a group of parking lots across from the Paycom Center, is familiar to city leaders. When planning construction for Oklahoma City's new convention center, the city tried to acquire the property but chose another site after being told owners would only sell for $100 million.

A Phase 1 ESA is an early part in the process of Oklahoma City's Brownfields program, and not yet an indicator of which site the city will choose. But, the city previously stated it prefers the Cox Convention Center site because it's a property the city owns.

Brownfields are "underused or abandoned properties with confirmed or possible environmental contaminants that complicate development opportunities," according to the city's website.

Shortly after the successful vote in December extending a one-cent sales tax to fund the arena, City Manager Craig Freeman said he hoped to have a site selected within a few months.

The city spokesperson said no selection has been made yet and the Cox Convention Center and the nearby parking lots are the only two sites under consideration.

Will Rogers World Airport

The Will Rogers World Airport hit close to record numbers for travelers in 2023. Oklahoma City Director of Airports Jeff Mulder said the airport's success is a positive sign for Oklahoma’s economy. 

Last year was the best year for Oklahoma air travel since 2019. The airline industry is still rebounding from the pandemic, but airport travel numbers reached pre-pandemic heights. On Thursday, every sight and sound at Will Rogers World Airport felt as normal as it’s been in recent years.  

“It’s taken the industry some time to get back,” Mulder said. “It’s a good sign that we’ve got a strong local market.” 

Last year, 4.4 million travelers passed through these gates – the most since pre-pandemic. Ross Washburn and his colleague Brenda Hahn traveled from Denver. “We do a little bit of traveling,” Washburn said.  

They flew to Oklahoma City for business training. “Super easy to navigate compared to Denver International Airport,” Washburn said. “[OKC is] fun it’s walkable. There’s a lot of different things to do.” 

As travel numbers grow so is the Oklahoma City community. This week the city approved several avigation easements limiting the heights of new buildings near the airport. “Helps limit encroachment and incompatible uses,” Mulder said. 

Easements ensure planes can land and take off safely in Oklahoma City. “Making sure that we protect the public asset that we have as the community grows,” Mulder said. 

As Oklahoma City thrusts forward, Mulder said Will Rogers World Airport will be here to welcome people back. “We expect good things to continue in ‘24,” Mulder said. 

The city is helping fill the need for future pilots. Mulder said they signed an agreement with Putnam City Schools to place an aviation classroom at Wiley Post Airport. 


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