A lot of Kevin Durant fans were excited when I was the first to get official confirmation earlier this year that the Thunder star was preparing to open a restaurant in Lower Bricktown. At the time Durant confirmed the project, he suggested construction would start in late April. But then weeks, and months, followed with no hints of any new activity on the project.
Over the summer I began hearing from Bricktown interests who reported the Hal Smith Group, which will own the eatery, was shopping for a new location. And then, nothing. The Hal Smith Group has never returned a single call I’ve ever made to them during my entire career, and this story has proven to be no exception.
But after doing some digging and a helpful call I received this morning, I can provide an update that the restaurant is moving ahead – and that the wait shouldn’t go on much longer. At this point I have no information as to whether Doc Brown will make the grand opening…. city code is a bit murky on the parking of Delorean DMC-12s on rooftops.
Over at OKC Talk, a good conversation is underway about properties considered to be blights on the city skyline. It’s easy to understand why the Veolia (formerly known as Trigen) plant is mentioned prominently. To be fair, it was actually quite progressive that way back in the early 1970s a thermal energy plant was built to provide an alternative heating and cooling source for downtown properties. I’ve seen quite a competition between Veolia and Oklahoma Gas & Electric in providing service to downtown buildings, including those owned by the city. The plant was built at what city leaders thought, at the time, would remain an obscure southeast boundary for downtown.
Today, as we all know, the intersection of E.K. Gaylord and Sheridan is among the most visible intersections downtown, at the crossroads of the central business district, the convention center, hotels and Bricktown. It’s a busy corridor. And yeah, it’s kind of ugly.
A dozen years ago downtown property owners, planners and civic leaders participated in a series of downtown master planning meetings. Sadly, the action plan they developed was quickly abandoned for lack of movement. One idea I always thought was great was the idea that the old Trigen plant could become a great canvass for public art or for glitzy Times Square style billboards.
So how about it folks? Why can’t this be done? And if it can be done, who will take the lead?
Don’t you hate all those shots of a sleepy Bricktown Canal taken eight years ago shown on TNT? You can help change everything. Here’s an alert from the Bricktown Association. I urge everyone to take time out from their day to stroll the Bricktown Canal. Devon Energy, Continental Resources, SandRidge, Sonic – here’s your chance to show your civic pride – give your employees a special break today to gather in Oklahoma’s premier urban entertainment district. This is a great step in the right direction for the association (I hope the association will consider placing a few extra patio seats on any of the empty balconies to help fill in any development gaps):
Are you all as happy as I am about the GREAT Thunder win last night?! WOW! On that note, Charles Barkley will be in Bricktown this afternoon, touring the Bricktown Canal on a Water Taxi around 1:30 p.m. I’m letting everyone know this because we would love for people to take that time to be out and about along the canal, maybe taking a walk or grabbing lunch on a patio. It’s a beautiful day and Bricktown always looks better when there is life in the streets and on the canal. We do ask that you show Mr. Barkley nothing but respect – despite anything he may have said about Oklahoma City prior to this visit, he is still a guest in our city and we should show him just how amazing this city really is!
Click on image three times to view in high resolution.
Developer Randy Hogan unveiled designs today to the Urban Renewal Authority for what is the last major “pad” site in Lower Bricktown – a building that is tentatively set to be home to a restaurant run by the Hal Smith Group in conjunction with Thunder star Kevin Durant.
Unlike other buildings done by Hogan in Lower Bricktown, this one apparently includes no stucco on the facade, just rock and brick. Urban renewal commissioners appeared content with this schematic design, though they’ve yet to approve designs for construction to begin.
All this brings me back to the beginning, when Lower Bricktown was pretty ugly.
To be fair, this site did require a lot of vision. Back in 1997, Urban Renewal commissioners rejected a rival bid submitted by Sooner Development because it envisioned “pad site development” – the very path eventually taken by the winner, Hogan.
So let’s look back at what Hogan proposed that gave his proposal the edge over his rivals:
Things changed. Hogan ultimately built dual level development with only one building – The Centennial, which is a mix of housing, entertainment and restaurants. Hogan’s latest proposal is a one-story building, with no patio build-out to the canal. You can see the pad site in the photo below, located between the Harkins Theater and Toby Keith’s I Love this Bar and Grill.
The item is definitely on the Urban Renewal Authority agenda for next Wednesday. As I reported last week (in a story that has since been blatantly ripped off by some local TV stations), Thunder superstar Kevin Durant is set to open a restaurant that will be owned and operated by the Hal Smith Restaurant Group, which also operates Charleston’s, Louies, Ted’s Escandido, and yes, Toby Keith’s I Love this Bar and Grill, which is next to the proposed site for the Durant restaurant.
I can now share that I’m being told the restaurant will feature southern comfort food and steaks, and the price point will be higher than what’s found at Toby Keith’s, but lower than Mickey Mantle Steakhouse a little further north up the Bricktown Canal.
As I mentioned earlier this week, there’s a lot going on – so much so that it’s almost impossible right now to keep up with it all. Hopefully by the end of this week I’ll have most items caught up.
Let’s start with Bricktown, where it looks like a small wedge-shaped building along Main Street is being remodeled:
In MidTown, meanwhile, we’re continuing to see an influx of new housing and restaurants. At 430 NW 12, a long vacant two-story office building is about to extended to three stories and converted into housing:
We also know that the old strip shopping center at NW 10 and Walker is being renovated into an upscale string of restaurants as well. Passersby have seen renovations underway for the past couple of months for a Go-Go Sushi restaurant:
If you follow The Oklahoman’s food writer, David Cathey, you’ll also know that a new location for Saturn Grill will be opening next to Go Go Sushi. The opening of these two restaurants will likely solidify Walker Avenue’s status as an addition to the city’s list of leading restaurant rows.
I’m hearing from a lot of folks who are very complimentary of the Chickasaws for listening to local concerns about their first choice of names for the ballpark (Newcastle Field at Bricktown) and going with a name that celebrates the tribe, and not a suburb and one of its casinos.
Flashback: “council is allowed to reject a name only if it is tied to an inappropriate business or identity”
UPDATE: DESPITE WHAT FORMER MAYOR RON NORICK SAID IN 1998, THE LEASE DOES NOT APPEAR TO GIVE THE COUNCIL ANY CONTROL OVER THE BALLPARK’S NAMING RIGHTS.
Ballpark Gets Corporate Nameplate
By Bob Hersom, Steve Lackmeyer and Jack Money
Oklahoma City’s new era of professional baseball will have a familiar ring to it.
That message rang clear on a windswept Tuesday at the new Bricktown ballpark, when the Oklahoma RedHawks officially introduced their home as Southwestern Bell Park.
“Southwestern Bell is involved with every aspect of this community as sponsors, promoters and supporters through volunteer leadership and resources,” said Oklahoma RedHawks President Clay Bennett.
“It is an absolute natural that this outstanding company would be a part of the Oklahoma RedHawks, a part of this baseball park and a part of this first product that’s launched from MAPS. We are very excited about the relationship.”
“All of us at Southwestern Bell are so proud to be part of this history-making event,” said Southwestern Bell regional President Donna Snyder. “Southwestern Bell is the home team. Back in 1904, when the Oklahoma City Metropolitans took the field, Southwestern Bell was in business here in Oklahoma City.”
“We have a new corporate partner, and that’s really what this is all about,” said Oklahoma City Mayor Ron Norick. “It’s the commitment that Southwestern Bell has made to our community. These naming rights issues help keep ticket prices down and provide services, and I know Southwestern Bell is going to put a tremendous amount of dollars in their advertising budget on top of this just to promote Oklahoma City and the stadium.”
Bennett said the RedHawks, which has naming rights to the $29 million ballpark, entered into a seven-year agreement with Southwestern Bell.
Neither Norick, Bennett nor Southwestern Bell officials would say how much money Southwestern Bell was paying the Oklahoma RedHawks to put the company’s name on the ballpark.
“We’ve agreed not to disclose the financial terms,” Bennett said.
As for the stadium’s name, Norick said it will still have to face a vote of the city council. But the lease, according to Norick, does not allow the city council to arbitrarily reject a name. Instead, the council is allowed to reject a name only if it is tied to an inappropriate business or identity, Norick said.
“That’s not the case here – Southwestern Bell is a very good corporate citizen,” Norick said.
Oklahoma City will make some money from the revenue the RedHawks receive from the naming rights – $100,000 total, according to the lease agreement approved by the RedHawks and the city council.
Norick said the city will get more revenue than that because of the additional ticket sales the advertising package will generate. Ticket sales and concession revenues from the ticket buyers will be a boost, he said.
The majority of the city council said Tuesday they will support the new ballpark name.
But Councilman Jack Cornett said he would oppose the name if he could. He also repeated his claim that the city was on the short end of the stick during the lease negotiation.
About 50 people called city hall Tuesday afternoon to comment on the name, and most objected to the new designation.
Southwestern Bell Oklahoma President Dave Lopez said fan response to the naming of the park was not unexpected.
“I think every fan has that reaction, but I think it’s a reality,” Lopez said. “I think there’s a balance between the quality of the product and becoming overly commercialized. It is a fact of life in sports today.”
Alright, enough posting of music videos.
I’ll admit, I’ve been a busy guy the last few days. And there’s a lot going on.
We’ve got a press conference coming up tomorrow at what many will always refer to as the Bricktown Ballpark. Like it or not, the name is about to become Newcastle Field at Bricktown. Yes, the ballpark built and paid for by city taxpayers will be named after the Newcastle Casino and the town of Newcastle. The naming rights are controlled by the owners of the Oklahoma City RedHawks, Los Angeles-based Mandalay Sports – power granted to them through a lease they inherited that the city council approved way back in 1998 (not a single member of that council is now at City Hall).
I received an urgent string of emails yesterday as I was busy covering some stories going on at City Hall. For those unaware, a couple of old buildings, both real gems, are being torn down along NE 4. One, the old Le’Ora’s Beautye Salon, had a surprise as the brick walls started coming down…
My friends speculated that from the carton design on the graphic, the sign might date to the 20′s and would be well worth trying to save. But even as this discussion was underway, demolition had already started. The wall was taken down and feared lost forever… but what’s trash to one person is a treasure to another. I am told the sign, left in a pile, has been rescued by fellow history enthusiast and is in safe keeping. I’ll verify this soon and report back…
Final note: Many were surprised to hear that Larry Nichols, executive chairman at Devon Energy, asked that an effort to name the Civic Center park after him be dropped. This quietly occurred while debate was raging over a makeover of the park, and one councilman, Ed Shadid, was very unhappy to learn this after the final vote took place on the tearing up of the old park. I can also report that according to Carol Troy, chair of the Civic Center Foundation, Nichols personally contacted City Manager Jim Couch to request the naming be dropped. I am unaware of Couch making any report of that request to the city council prior to their Feb. 28 vote on the park redesign.