OKC convention center hotel draws interest from large firms

Friday, February 6, 2015

By Steve Lackmeyer

The Oklahoman


Some of the country’s biggest hotel operators are showing an interest in a request issued by Oklahoma City to develop a 500- to 800-room downtown convention hotel.

The request-for-development proposals are due March 3, and among those inquiring about the project is Omni Hotels, which operates 60 properties in North America, many of them convention hotels. Omni convention headquarters hotels include a 1,001-room hotel in Dallas, an 854-room hotel in Nashville, and a 614-room hotel in Fort Worth.

Elite group responds

Other companies showing an interest include Hyatt, which operates 549 properties around the world; Starwood Hotels, which operates 1,200 hotels in 100 countries including downtown’s Sheraton Hotel; Peabody Hotels, best known for its historic Peabody Hotel in Memphis; and Marcus Hotels and Resorts, which owns Oklahoma City’s historic Skirvin Hilton Hotel.

“There does seem to be quite a bit of interest from architects to developers that build hotels,” said Cathy O’Connor, president of The Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City. “They are taking a long-term view and are optimistic about the city’s economy and overall market.”

Voters in 2009 approved a MAPS 3 list of capital projects that includes a $287 million convention center, which is to open in 2019. Plans call for the hotel to be built at Robinson Avenue between Reno Avenue and the future downtown Crosstown Boulevard on the same block that will be home to the new convention center.

The hotel also would be immediately west of the Chesapeake Energy Arena, home to the NBA Thunder, and a short walk from Bricktown and the Central Business District.

Downtown renewal

The opportunity to attract a large conference hotel to Oklahoma City is yet another sign of the transformation that has taken place downtown over the past 20 years. City leaders struggled to attract development of the Renaissance Hotel in 1995 when downtown had only one hotel open — the 395-room Sheraton Hotel.

Downtown is now home to 2,262 hotel rooms (including the 21c Museum Hotel still under construction) that range from full-service to select-service to limited-service properties. A few more hotels are on the drawing boards that envision adding up to 1,000 more rooms — mostly in Bricktown.

Michael Carrier, president of the Oklahoma City Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, is not worried about such growth, noting the mix matches offerings found in other markets with large downtown convention center hotels.

“We right now have a good mix of properties,” Carrier said. “There are other properties on the books that may or may not happen that will add to the mix. But a headquarters hotel is what is really missing. What happens with a headquarters hotel will really round out what happens in the short term future.”

Read the rest of this story and see additional photos at NewsOK.com.