From left, Seattle Supersonics chairman Clay Bennett, NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, and NBA commissioner David Stern talk after a press conference at the Skirvin Hilton Tuesday in Oklahoma City. By Nate Billings, The Oklahoman.
Flashback: It’s March, 1998. Ward 8 Councilman Guy Liebmann, considered the early favorite for the mayor’s post after Ron Norick decided not to seek re-election, is in a tough battle against political newcomer Kirk Humphreys. The city’s Metropolitan Area Projects initiative is running behind schedule and over budget. Liebmann wants to shelve the proposed arena. Humphreys insists that all of the MAPS projects should be built as promised to voters.
The ballpark has yet to open. No MAPS project is completed some five years after the tax was approved. The public is unhappy with the ballpark lease with the Oklahoma RedHawks because it gave away control of naming rights.
Downtown is showing some vibrancy, however, mostly in Bricktown which has continued to flourish despite delays in construction of the ballpark and canal. But downtown still only has one aging hotel. And one of the grandest buildings of them all – the Skirvin Hotel – is marking one decade dark and abandoned. The building is falling apart, and Ward 7 Councilwoman Willa Johnson is pondering whether it should be declared dillapidated.
I’m in the thick of all this, easilly cranking out a two to three stories a day with beat partner Jack Money.
Could any of us have predicted that 10 years later the NBA commissioner would be hosting a press conference at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel – now considered the finest hotel in the city – to announce the arrival of a team at the downtown arena was a virtual lock? Would anyone believe that downtown would soon be home to its seventh hotel, with more coming? Or that hundreds of condominiums would be opening up? Or that a skyscraper of at least 37 stories would soon alter the downtown skyline?