$1 Billion Norman Entertainment District Goes Before City Leaders

City leaders unveiled plans for the Rock Creek Entertainment District in September 2023, and are now days away from taking the project to the planning commission. Norman City Council decided Tuesday night to put it up for a vote to see if the project should include tax incentives.

Wednesday, June 12th 2024, 4:44 pm

By: News 9, Cameron Joiner


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Norman's proposed $1 billion entertainment district, including a new OU basketball arena, is such a big project, city leaders want to hear from residents.

City leaders unveiled plans for the Rock Creek Entertainment District in September 2023, and are now days away from taking the project to the planning commission.

Norman City Council decided Tuesday night to put it up for a vote to see if the project should include tax incentives.

"A resolution calling and holding a special election on the 27th day of August or the next permissible date thereafter," Larry Heikkila said at Tuesday night's Norman City Council meeting.

Lengthy public comment at Tuesday night's meeting revealed concerns about the Tax Increment Financing District, or TIF, that would help pay for the project.

It would direct all sales tax in the area towards paying for the entertainment district.

If approved, the project could begin construction as early as 2025.

"We need to move into a grown-up mode of being able to deal with normal being the third largest city in Oklahoma," Heikkila said at a meeting of city leaders to discuss the project last week.

City, county, and university leaders call it a huge step forward for the city of Norman.

“There are so many things converging right now. This is what progress looks like,” OU President, Joe Harroz said.

WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT THE PLANS

The entertainment district would be on an empty plot of land near Northwest 24th Avenue and Rock Creek Road.

"This is an opportunity we can't miss we need to make this happen now," Dan Schemm, CEO of Visit Norman said.

The Rock Creek Entertainment district, first unveiled in September of 2023, would feature restaurants—shops, hotels, and condos. It would also be the new home of OU basketball and other sports inside a brand-new arena.

“The synergy of an arena with an entertainment district is absolutely a game changer for our program,” OU Athletic Director Joe Castiglione said.

Concerns have been voiced by students and Norman residents about moving the basketball arena off campus, but Castiglione says he’s confident people will make the drive.

Castiglione cited a survey from several years ago that revealed 85% of people attending games at Lloyd Noble were already driving there.

He also said travel plans are in place for the off-campus arena. "We have built in a plan to shuttle from the campus over to the new arena," he added.

A coalition of leaders are all helping push the project forward, saying it will bring tourism and revenue to the city of Norman.

"5,000 new jobs to the city of Norman, 3,000 new housing options, and the arena that's being put together is not just for university use but well beyond the university, 76% of its use will be for other community events," Harroz said.

80% of the $1 billion project will be paid for through private investment and the other 20% from public funding through the TIF district.

"Very confident, not only in being able to get this passed but to get it generally accepted," Heikkila said

The next step is up to Norman city leaders at the planning commission vote on Thursday, June 13.

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