Tag Archives: OKC

Amarillo channeling OKC?

I’m hearing some similar-sounding economic rumblings from two places: Amarillo, Texas and Oklahoma City.

An acquaintance of mine, Jason Herrick, active in Amarillo Matters, a pro-business political action group, writes this via Twitter: You mean the same OKC that first built a downtown ballpark, then attracted a minor league team and kicked off a revitalization of downtown? And now they are attracting new hotels and investment because there is demand for the product?

I am going to surmise from Herrick’s message that downtown Oklahoma City is continuing to stir, to come to life, to enjoy the fruits of public investment.

Amarillo’s downtown district is beginning to rumble in much the same manner, again thanks to some public investment.

You see, OKC decided some years to invest some public money into construction of a new ballpark near what’s now called Bricktown in the downtown district. The ballpark is now home to the city’s AAA minor-league baseball franchise. Bricktown took off, too.

The city encouraged development of an entertainment district along a Canadian River tributary that flows through the downtown area. Abandoned warehouses were re-purposed. The city built a new sports venue downtown, where the Oklahoma City Thunder play NBA basketball before packed houses.

Life is good in downtown OKC.

So, where is Amarillo tracking these days? From my vantage point it appears that the city of my former residence well might be along the same track. Yes, I get that Amarillo doesn’t have a river running through its downtown district. I also understand the disparity in the size of the two communities: Amarillo has 200,000 residents; OKC is home to around 700,000. Still, there are signs of life to be seen in little ol’ Amarillo.

A downtown ballpark is under construction. The city has opened a first-class convention hotel. Polk Street is stirring back to life. Residents are moving into newly developed dwellings.

Where will the future take Amarillo? It needs to look just a bit eastward along Interstate 40, toward OKC, perhaps to get a clue.

New ballpark: not a new concept for city


Amarillo is considering a downtown ballpark that could be home to a minor-league baseball team.

Some individuals — maybe many of them — think the city and Potter County have an adequate venue for baseball on the edge of the Tri-State Fairgrounds.

I believe they are mistaken.

City officials once considered a study on the feasibility of building a new ballpark to replace that trash heap once known as the Dilla Villa. Then-Mayor Debra McCartt wasn’t too keen on the idea of spending public money on such a study. The city manager at the time, Alan Taylor, had the idea that if you “build it they will come.”

That was a decade ago, in 2005.

The city’s governing board has changed from a commission to a council. Mayor McCartt is no longer in office, being succeeded by Paul Harpole, who happens to have bought into the idea of a public investment in a project that will do the public much good.

At issue now is whether voters will endorse a proposed multipurpose event venue. They’ll decide the matter in a citywide referendum on Nov. 3. The issue at hand is this: Do we develop an MPEV that includes a baseball park or not?

I say “yes!”

I offered an opinion on the concept of a downtown baseball park in a column published Aug. 14, 2005. I wrote that the nation is full of examples of how projects such as the MPEV — as it’s currently configured — have delivered “enormous payback” to cities that build them.

My favorite example is in Oklahoma City, where a downtown ballpark has helped revive Bricktown. Now, I understand fully that Amarillo is less than half the size of OKC. I keep returning to the notion of that “economies of scale” can work for Amarillo, just as it has done in Okie City.

Let’s not operate in a climate of fear over a concept that might be new to this city, but is far from new in other communities that had the will to march forward.