In this week's episode of the Business Intelligence Report, Journal Record editor Russell Ray discusses Oklahoma City Major David Holt's idea for future MAPS sales taxes, and some of the citizen-submitted suggestions for MAPS 4, including a tourism-level aquarium.
Richard Bassett: You're listening to the Business Intelligence Report a weekly conversation about business news in Oklahoma. I'm Richard Bassett. With me is Russell Ray, editor of The Journal Record. Thanks for joining me today, Russell.
Russell Ray: Good to be here, Richard. Thanks for having me.
Bassett: I'd like to start off by discussing Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt's State of the City address from last week. Specifically, what he said about Metropolitan Area Project sales tax initiatives. In a recent article on JournalRecord.com, reporter Brian Brus covered Holt's address and how he introduced the possibility of a new structure for MAPS sales taxes moving forward.
Ray: Yes, the big idea that came out of Mayor Holt's State of the City speech was an endowment. The idea is to set aside a portion of the sales tax for an endowment to fund nonprofit causes something to fund beyond just brick and mortar capital projects. The effects of doing something like that could be felt long after the sales tax ends.
Bassett: So the first three map sales taxes have produced about $1.8 billion in revenue to build or repair 70 schools and fund 17 major civic projects like the new streetcar system in downtown Oklahoma City. For MAPS 4, Holt invited the community to submit their own ideas for possible projects. He encouraged us all to dream big and over 1000 submissions were received. During his State of the City address, Holt revealed several of these what were some of the top suggestions?
Ray: Well Mayor Holt named about 20 ideas during his talk. Among them was a facility for an aerospace training center which makes a lot of sense since aerospace is the state's second biggest industry. He also mentioned upgrades to Chesapeake Arena and noted the Oklahoma City Thunder's lease ends in just five years. A downtown aquarium was another popular idea. Other ideas included an art museum. Additional investment in city parks, mass transit, and many, many other interesting ideas.
Bassett: So Holt was optimistic some of these types of projects could be completed. But he also said he and others are hopeful MAPS 4 can help tackle some other tougher challenges the city faces.
Ray: That's right Holt said, and I certainly agree with him on this, that we need to strike a balance between quality of life needs with other more challenging issues that people face every day. And some of those issues include mental health, homelessness, domestic violence, and education.
Bassett: Briefly, you did mention one of the popular public submissions for MAPS 4 is a tourism-level aquarium. As it turns out, this is something Oklahoma City Zoo officials have already been considering. Brian Brus recently reported on this. What did he find out?
Ray: That's right. Turns out the Oklahoma City Zoo has already performed a feasibility study on a new aquarium. The cost of such a project won't be cheap. The study showed you'll need about 100,000 square feet for the project, a million gallons of water for exhibits, and about five acres, not including the parking space. The aquarium in Jenks was built 15 years ago and cost about $25 million to build and those were 2004 dollars.
Bassett: So what has the economic return been on the aquarium in Jenks, and what kind of return could an aquarium in Oklahoma City have?
Ray: Well officials tell us that two aquariums, one in Oklahoma City and one in Jenks, can co-exist. The feasibility study suggests an Oklahoma City aquarium would attract 600,000 to 700,000 visitors each year. An economic impact study is now underway. Compared with other metro areas of similar size the aquarium could break even and support its own operations here in Oklahoma City according to Dwight Lawson who is the executive director of the city zoo.
Bassett: Russell Ray is the editor of The Journal Record. Thanks for your time today, Russell.
Ray: My pleasure, Richard. Thank you.
Bassett: KGOU and The Journal Record collaborate each week on The Business Intelligence Report. You can follow us both on social media. We're on Facebook and Twitter @journalrecord and @kgounews. You'll find links to the stories we discussed during this episode at JournalRecord.com. And this conversation, along with previous episodes of The Business Intelligence Report, are available on our website KGOU.org. While you're there you can check out other features and podcasts produced by KGOU and our StateImpact reporting team. For KGOU and The Business Intelligence Report, I'm Richard Bassett.
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.