Saturday Marks 20 Years Since OKC Voters Approved MAPS

Friday, December 13th 2013, 9:41 pm
By: News 9

This Saturday, December 14, marks exactly 20 years since Oklahoma City voters approved the original MAPS program.

MAPS, which is an acronym for Metropolitan Area Projects, was a bold step for a city that was struggling to bring life to a struggling down. In hindsight, there is no question that it was successful beyond the imagination of even the most staunch supporters.

Funded by a five and a half year one-cent sales tax, MAPS consisted of nine projects, all paid for in cash. The Greater OKC Chamber of Commerce estimates, to date, the $360 million program has generated $3.1 billion in private investment. $1.9 billion more has been announced.

Few would question the program now, but there was a good deal of skepticism early on, including worry that the projects, once built, would be neglected.

"Yeah, that was a big concern," said Carl Sullivan, a resident of southeast Oklahoma City.

After MAPS was approved in late 1993, Sullivan was appointed, along with 20 other citizens, to the MAPS Citizens Oversight Committee, which reviewed and made recommendations throughout the planning, design, and construction of all the projects.

Sullivan says what was then the Myriad Convention Center (now the Cox Convention Center) was exhibit A in their case for having a dedicated maintenance fund.

"The Myriad had been built for over 25 years and they hadn't done a thing to it, because they didn't have the money to do it," Sullivan recalled, "so we didn't want that to happen again -- that's why the use tax was put in."

City leaders were in agreement. So, while the city was collecting 1 cent in sales tax to pay for construction of the projects, it was also collecting 1 cent in use tax to go into what was called the MAPS Operations Fund.

"And, over the course of the MAPS 1 program, it generated around 20 million dollars," said Jim Couch, Oklahoma City's city manager.

With addition of earned interest dollars, Couch says, the actual total was about $28 million.

Over the years, the money has been used occasionally for capital needs at the ballpark, the arena, and elsewhere. But, Couch says, for the most part, the city has tapped the fund for regular maintenance. primarily at the canal.

"And so that does cost us about a $1 million a year," said Couch, "to maintain the canal, the water, the landscaping, the trash service and those type of things."

Each year, the city shifts more of the MAPS maintenance costs to the general fund. Couch says that was always the plan, and it only makes sense, given what maps has meant to the local economy.

"It certainly stimulated the growth in Oklahoma City and has increased--made the pie bigger, the general fund pie bigger," Couch explained, "so if you need to use some of that to maintain those projects, you have the funds to do it."

Overall, Sullivan is pleased with the condition of the projects, and happy to know the operations fund served its intended purpose.

"Everything I can see worked."

There is currently $9.6 million remaining in the fund.

MAPS 3 also has a use tax fund, but that money is going specifically to public safety purchases. Maintenance of the MAPS 3 projects, Couch says, will either be covered by the operators of the particular venues, or will come out of the general fund. He expects the annual drain on the general fund from upkeep of MAPS 3 projects to be between $4 million and $5 million.