Today its population has grown to 558,000. At 621 square miles, this sprawling capital city is one of the largest cities in land area in the country.
Residents enjoy among the lowest housing costs in the country and can choose to live in almost any type of home — luxury executive developments, houses of every architectural type and price in the City’s six Historic Preservation districts and older neighborhoods, affordable new housing developments and rural residential or acreage – all within the City limits and generally within a 15 minute drive from Downtown.
Townhouses built in the historic Deep Deuce area adjacent to the Bricktown entertainment district are 90% occupied and additional planned residential development has been approved.
The ambitious and visionary multi-project Downtown redevelopment plan known as MAPS (Metropolitan Area Projects) has transformed Downtown.
The new $87.7 million Ford Center, with its 20,000 seats, continues to attract top entertainers including Britney Spears, the Rolling Stones, Tim McGraw and Toby Keith.
The adjacent Cox Businesses Services Convention Center, expanded and exquisitely renovated in a $63 million dollar upgrade, triggered construction of a Renaissance Hotel that connects to the Convention Center by a skywalk, providing ideal facilities for conventions and meetings.
In addition to sophisticated interior finishes such as the use of native stone and the elegant sweeping curve of its grand staircase, the facility is further enhanced by the broadband Internet service added as part of the City’s $1.7 million naming rights agreement with Cox Communications, negotiated in February, 2002.
A $34.2 million triple-A baseball stadium in Bricktown was the first major MAPS project completed, followed a year later by a $23.1 million, mile-long canal with water features, boat rides, and landscaping and other features that integrate with the area.
The North Canadian River, long empty during the dry season, has been transformed into a 7-mile series of expansive river lakes that already have hosted a prestigious rowing tournament.
Low water dams at three locations control the water level.
Landscaping and further improvements south of Bricktown are now underway. The Bricktown Canal will connect to the river when the $51.8 million project is complete.
Today, MAPS-fueled investment downtown totals $2.4 billion.
The extraordinary Oklahoma City Museum of Art, for example, was built entirely with $14.5 million in private funds. It was designed around a landmark movie theater that had been abandoned for more than 20 years, and had been threatened with demolition. The museum’s exterior is limestone to complement the surrounding civic art deco era buildings. In contrast, however, a soaring glass tower visible from the street day and night features the world’s largest Dale Chihouly glass sculpture.
The museum remembers its cinema origins with the Noble Theater, which presents art films and quality mainstream re-releases.
Contingents from other states and cities now regularly visit Oklahoma City to learn how the City's leadership was able to give the downtown area a new life by creating new hotels, new businesses and new jobs as a result of the MAPS program.
In Oklahoma, all general tax increases for City government require a vote of the people. Citizen support and confidence in the the City’ s elected officials and organization is so high, municipal government has enjoyed unprecedented voter approval for a range of visionary and needed capital investments in critical areas of the City.
Beginning with MAPS, voters have approved every single ballot measure, including the largest capital improvements bond issue in City history, which passed with a 78% yes vote.
A major $700 million initiative to rebuild and renew the Oklahoma City public school system is underway, following an extensive community study and planning effort to identify solutions to aging city school districts — a problem faced by almost every city in America.
The resulting massive package, approved by voters on November 13, 2001, includes a $470 million plan which guarantees every child will attend school in a new or renovated building equipped with the latest computer technology. The school bond and temporary sales tax measure even provided funds to replace the worn-out fleet of school buses with safe, reliable and fuel-efficient vehicles.
While the City is doing the MAPS for Kids projects, including purchase of the school buses, the Oklahoma City Independent Public Schools District I-89 still sets the policies for curriculum and day-to-day school operations.
Voters approved a dedicated permanent tax for public safety that provided for additional manpower, increased pay and additional capital improvements.
In addition, a short-term dedicated Police and Fire Equipment sales tax which was in effect for 32 months from July, 2000 through February, 2003, provided the funding for the latest equipment, technology and facilities needed to meet the challenge of keeping the citizens of Oklahoma City safe.
The lack of major traffic congestion is a pleasant surprise to those coming from other cities. Although cars remain the transportation of choice, bus service is offered to all points of the city and a Downtown trolley service makes getting around the Downtown area convenient.
Public and private parking garages provide ample and reasonable parking for those coming Downtown either for work or to enjoy the many cultural and recreation attractions offered at the Ford Center arena, Civic Center Music Hall, Stage Center theater, Oklahoma City Museum of Art and the Myriad Botanical Gardens and Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory—a six-block square oasis in the heart of Downtown.
The grand old Skirvin Hotel, a landmark historic downtown hotel, appeared destined for the wrecking ball until the City stepped in and bought it. Now, through a public/private partnership, a contract for the renovation and reopening of the historic Skirvin is approaching the final stage after many previous attempts to save it failed.
The City’s conclusion that buying the hotel to resell to a developer was the only way to transform the rapidly deteriorating local landmark into an economic asset has proven sound. A committee appointed by Mayor Kirk Humphreys has chosen one of four well-funded and well-qualified developers who offered plans to restore the Skirvin. Thanks to the farsightedness of City leadership, the Skirvin is back on the path to its former grandeur.
Medical services are available at several general and specialty hospitals and the prestigious health sciences center area, which includes a medical tower for the OU medical school faculty practice as well as four hospitals, and the prestigious Dean A. McGee Eye Institute.
Five public and private universities are located in the area and a Downtown consortium offers credit and noncredit classes scheduled conveniently for those working full time.
The area’s 22 highly-acclaimed public golf courses, including a 9-hole executive course next door to a high school, make this popular activity available to young and old. Five courses are operated by the City itself.
Tennis facilities, recreational swim centers with water slides and zero-splash entries, along with a network of community centers and neighborhood parks, provide a wide range of recreation choices.
The City’s ambitious OKC Trails System has more than ten miles of paved trails completed and the plan, when complete, will network the city with 200 miles of trails.
OKC’s water system is an asset envied by other cities. Our ample water supply, extensive expansion of the delivery and treatment systems and a taste picked for awards in regional and national competition provide residential and commercial water at some of the lowest rates in the region.
Even the most mundane of core services — trash collection — is a point of pride for Oklahoma City. One monthly rate gets customers once-a-week collection of two “Big Blue” roll-out carts and the option of additional plastic-bagged trash, monthly bulky waste collection and, on no-rural routes, curbside recycling pickup plus other services for one low monthly rate.
The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, elected officials and Airport staff have long known how important air travel is to economic development. And while the Will Rogers World Airport is fast, easy and convenient to get to and use, more nonstop flights have been sought for some time. Great progress has been made and Oklahoma City now has nonstop flights to each coast and 17 major cities including Minneapolis and Detroit. A new carrier, Frontier Airlines, also came to this market.
The first phase of a $100 million expansion to Will Rogers was completed in June, 2003. When the project is complete the airport’s square footage will increase 341,000 to 583,000 square feet with an additional nine gates.
Public art is becoming the norm rather than the exception. From tile murals in the Bricktown Ballpark to abstract sculpture in the Myriad Gardens, art is appearing in many places. Along the canal, the Land Run Monument—a multi-piece sculpture depicting the Run of '89 — will be one of the largest bronzes in the world.
Museums and memorials abound in this heartland city. The Oklahoma City National Memorial, built to "remember those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever" after the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, has hosted more than a million visitors since it opened in 2000.
The internationally-acclaimed National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, the 45th Infantry Museum, the City's other museums and one of the top 10 zoos in the country round out the fascinating attractions available in Oklahoma City.
Soon, visitors from around the world will come here to visit the $100 million Native American Museum and Cultural Center and learn more about the state's rich Indian heritage. The Center will be built on 300 acres along the North Canadian River, not far from Bricktown and Downtown.
With its ample water supply, resident philharmonic and ballet companies, and visionary thinking, any vestiges of Oklahoma City's dry and desperate Dust Bowl days are long gone. Oklahoma City citizens have approved tax initiatives to continue to grow this City because they’re here to stay. This is a little bit of everybody’s home town. Including the descendants of those who went to California who are coming back to enjoy the amazing and affordable quality of life available in Oklahoma City.
Oklahoma City’s local government is highly respected and the Council Manager form of government brings professional management and representative leadership together to provide efficient services and governing policies and priorities that are responsive to the citizens.