Plans for a new whitewater center near downtown cleared an important hurdle today.
The citizen's group charged with overseeing the city's latest MAPS (Metropolitan Area Projects) program recommended the mayor and city council accept a construction bid for the project -- despite being $13 million more than what was budgeted.
The Oklahoma River already boasts a world-class rowing course, boathouses and a sky trail with zip line. Construction was expected to begin this fall on the river's latest attraction -- MAPS 3's whitewater center.
That was before the bids were opened last month.
"There are all kinds of factors that go into this," said Tom McDaniel, president of the American Fidelity Foundation, "So we all know that everything is not going to be, in 2014, as it was when we started in 2009."
McDaniel, who chairs MAPS 3's Citizens Advisory Board, is referring to the year when voters approved the temporary one cent sales tax that is paying for whitewater facility and all the MAPS projects.
This morning, McDaniel and Citizens Advisory Board considered three options for the whitewater center, which is one of several phases in MAPS 3's River Improvements project.
"Do you reduce the size of the project, do you not do the project," McDaniel posted, "[or] do you not do other parts of the river projects?"
The board also discussed the possibility of simply waiting a few months and then re-bidding the project, but MAPS officials recommended against that.
"If we want to re-bid the project," said David Todd, MAPS 3 program manager, "there may not be substantial savings."
With the center expected to be a training and competition venue for Olympic athletes, city officials want badly to keep the project intact, since it could position Oklahoma City as the host for the upcoming Olympics trials.
"They are big events, and they are valuable to the city," Todd said.
With that in mind, McDaniel and the board decided to recommend that engineers cut costs where they can, but to go ahead and accept the lowest bid, $33.4 million, from Downey Contracting. To make up the bulk of the $13 million gap, they're advising that later phases of the river improvements project be scrapped.
"That would be the construction of a grandstand; that would be the construction of windscreens," said McDaniel, "and we decided that we would rather put this money on the whitewater center."
McDaniel believes the facility will be well worth it.
"I think it's going to differentiate us from any city in the world," McDaniel exclaimed.
One member of the board, Mike Dover, did vote 'no.' He was opposed to the idea of using any excess MAPS collections to help pay for the project.
This is only a recommendation from the advisory board. City Council is expected to vote on the issue in two weeks.