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Could Oklahoma City Support Another Large, Outdoor Concert Venue?

The Zoo Amphitheatre at 2101 NE 50th St. in Oklahoma City.
Brent Fuchs
The Journal Record
The Zoo Amphitheatre at 2101 NE 50th St. in Oklahoma City.

Two months ago Oklahoma City opened The Criterion, a new 3,500-seat theater in Bricktown. The venue has has already seen concerts by My Morning Jacket, Grace Potter, and most recently, Sturgill Simpson this past Wednesday evening. Later this year the Tower Theatre will open in Uptown, and there’s going to be an outdoor patio for concerts west of downtown.

But these are all indoor venues. Oklahoma City only has two large outdoor amphitheaters – The Zoo Amp, and Frontier City – both in the northeast part of the city.

“It really just didn't seem like there were that many shows planned this year at the Zoo Amphitheater, and [we] wondered how that industry was doing,” said The Journal Record’s managing editor Adam Brooks. “It turns out they're adding more to their series, and they actually expect a really good summer. They expect to sell out the four shows they've announced already.”

Frontier City is a little different. Since concert admission is included in the park ticket, there’s really no way to know who’s there to see a show, and who’s just there for the rides and games.

So with just two outdoor venues, could Oklahoma City support more?

Jeff Scheel, a booking agent with the Box Talent Agency, said there’s a “huge void” in Oklahoma City, The Journal Record’sMolly Flemingreports:

But a concert venue comes with a risk, he said. As music has become more diverse, the fan base has spread, so large venues may not fill up as often. Pollstar President and Editor-In-Chief Gary Bongiovanni said he doesn’t think Oklahoma City could support a larger venue, measuring 15,000 to 20,000 seats. The seating capacity at the Chesapeake Energy Arena is 18,203. “Actually, 8,500 is the sweet spot, especially for a market your size,” he said. “There was a period of time where everyone wanted to play outdoor amphitheaters. I don’t think you’re missing anything by not having a large outdoor venue.”

“Also, what you're hearing about with a lot of these outdoor concerts are festivals,” Brooks said. “They're multiple days. People want to camp out, they want it to be in a really beautiful location. [Bongiovanni] just doesn't think we could support that here.”

Tulsa’s Food Truck Fever

In Tulsa, developers are working to build a food truck park along the original Route 66 alignment just east of downtown.

“This is at East 11th Street and South Atlanta,” Brooks said. “There's going to be space for six food trucks, permanent seating, a permanent building that has the restaurant and the bar. Electrical hookups for the food trucks.”

If this sounds familiar, that’s because it’s very similar to the successful Bleu Garten outdoor food truck park in Midtown. Tulsa does have trucks that come to Oklahoma City for the widely successful H&8th Night Market. But these organizers want to capitalize on the nostalgia of the mother road, and offer something unique and permanent for residents in Oklahoma’s second-largest city, Fleming reports:

Fuel 66 will offer lunch service, which will be welcomed by the nearby Tulsa Welding School, the University of Tulsa and hospital employees at the University of Oklahoma Family Medicine Center and the Oklahoma Heart Institute. “We hope to be a catalyst for growth along 11th Street,” said [investor J.L.] Lewis. Eat Street Tulsa food truck festival Executive Director Jo Armstrong said she thinks the site will be embraced by the trucks. She started her festival in 2011 with 12 trucks and has seen it grow to 34. The Blue Dome Arts Festival on May 20 to May 22 has 22 trucks, but she could have had more, she said. “We have a growing food truck scene in Tulsa that is strong,” she said. “I’m excited to see them come in.”

The Business Intelligence Report is a collaborative news project between KGOU and The Journal Record.

As a community-supported news organization, KGOU relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online, or by contacting our Membership department.

The Journal Record is a multi-faceted media company specializing in business, legislative and legal news. Print and online content is available via subscription.  

Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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