Tulsa Sports Commission to Benefit From BOK Center

Contributing Editor

TULSA TOUGH: This year’s three-day cycling festival took place the weekend of June 1. Tulsa Tough is a joint initiative of the Tulsa Sports Commission and Tulsa Wheelmen. As part of the event, the first 100 kids to complete a “BikeEd??? class and participate in the Tulsa Tough Youth Ride received a free bike. Here Event Director Malcolm McCollam, rider John-Kelly Warren and TSC Executive Director Mike Dodson give away a free bike to a lucky participant.

Courtesy Tulsa Sports Commission

For the Tulsa Sports Commission the landscape will, if all goes according to plan, change Sept. 1, 2008.

That is the day the Bank of Oklahoma Center is scheduled to open. Things can happen to alter the exact date but that doesn’t bother Sports Commission Executive Director Mike Dodson.
“It’s a marvelous facility that’s already bringing Tulsa a lot of attention across the country.

“We’re not waiting for it to open. We have been in contact with the NCAA, the Big 12 Conference and Conference USA about hosting basketball tournaments. This is a three to five year project. The nearest of these is probably the Conference USA season-ending tournament and it won’t be available until 2009. The earliest the Big 12 can hold their championship here would be 2011. NCAA regional tournaments are a possibility. We’re working hard to land one.”

This is the 14th year the sports commission has been in existence. Originally begun to help with the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) tournament when the NAIA temporarily moved its national headquarters to Tulsa, the sports commission has found itself with an ever-broadening mandate.

“Because we are a tax-exempt organization, we have to deal with primarily non-profit organizations. The Tulsa Oilers, Tulsa Talons and Tulsa 66ers, all of which are for-profit organizations, make their own arrangements.”

College sports are a nice draw but they are far from the only things Dodson and his colleagues are targeting. “We are making up our own events. This year, for example, will see the third Tulsa Tough Ride and Race event with bicycle races of 50 kilometers, 50 miles and 100 miles. Next year it will be held May 30-June 1.”

A local bicycle race is nice but how much appeal does it have outside the Tulsa area?

“Last year we had 2,000 participants,” says Dodson, “including people from 25 states and seven foreign countries. We want to expand that 2,000 figure to 10,000. When that happens we’re going to need a lot more downtown hotel rooms to accommodate them.”

Dodson’s vision doesn’t stop with a bicycle race.

“We’re working on a major one-day college basketball tournament for the BOK Center. You’d be able to combine one or more major Oklahoma universities with outside attractions like UCLA, Duke or Maryland. You’d probably have to keep it to one day because most schools wouldn’t want to commit to a multi-day tournament.

“We’re also looking at such things as a figure skating tournament or a national high school wrestling tournament. This year we’re going to end four years of hosting the Summit Conference tournament (the old Mid-American Conference of which Oral Roberts University is a member). They’re going to Sioux Falls, S.D. for the next two years but we hope to have them back.

“We’ve even given some thought to hosting a soccer tournament with youth groups from our sister cities around the world (such a tournament could field players from San Luis Potosi, Mexico; Kaohsiung, Taiwan; Beihai, China; Tiberias, Israel; Utsunomiya, Japan; Zelenograd, Russia, Celle, Germany and Amiens, France.)

One development that is out of Dodson’s control, but which he feels could have a major effect on Tulsa, is whether or not the Tulsa Drillers move downtown. Driller president Chuck Lamson has indicated he’d like to move into a newer facility than the current Driller Stadium at Expo Square but he is being wooed not only by downtown Tulsa but Jenks developer Lynn Mitchell.

“Tulsa needs a central core of excitement and activity downtown. The BOK Center is a core, but we need the baseball park, hotels, restaurants, residential areas, shops, and the whole picture of a vibrant community.

“When it comes to hosting events we have an embarrassment of riches. In addition to the BOK Center and the Maxwell Convention Center we have the Fairgrounds Pavilion, the UMAC facility at Union High School and the new SpiritBank Event Center in Bixby. These venues can complement each other.

“Take the figure skating event we’re trying to put together for example; with both the Maxwell Convention Center and the BOK Center having ice facilities, a contestant will be able to warm up and practice right up to the moment they have to perform.

“Tulsa has a lot of flexibility in hosting events. The range of possibilities can’t be matched by many communities of any size in the country.”

Updated 12-27-2007

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