Drillers Could Anchor $1B Project

The Tulsa Drillers have signed a non-binding agreement with River District Development Group LLC that would move the Tulsa club to a new ballpark in Jenks.
The park, which will be located in a $1 billion privately-financed “River District” development, is forecast to create more than 4,000 permanent jobs and thousands more in construction jobs as the development is built in the next five to six years.
If it were to include a Driller Stadium, the River District would be the largest mixed-use development in the state. The plans include more than 800,000 SF of high-end retail shopping, specialty shops, restaurants, clubs and other entertainment.
The project will be built on 300 acres that stretches south of the Oklahoma Aquarium and a mile to the west of the Arkansas River.
The new Driller ballpark would include seating for 7,000 people, 4,000 less than the current facility at the Tulsa County Fairgrounds. According to Chuck Lamson, president and majority owner of the franchise, the smaller ballpark suits the Drillers better than their current park. “We have almost 11,000 seats, and that is too many on a night in, night out basis. We would rather have a high demand and limited supply.”
The River District development, designed as an “urban village,” will include a town square, 400,000 SF of office space, 650 hotel rooms and 300 condominiums overlooking an 80-acre lake.
Plans also call for structured parking facilities and a fountain and water feature set to a music library designed by Wet Labs of California, the company responsible for the fountains at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.
The River District Development Group consists of the Tulsa businessmen Jerry Ledford Jr., Julius Puma and Lynn Mitchell, along with Mike Krimbill, the former president and former general counsel of Energy Transfer Partners, and Bob Burk, former chief counsel for Energy Transfer Partners. The group has employed Development Design Group of Baltimore to assist in the design of the project.
Mitchell said developing the river countywide is important to the project. “The discussion of putting the river corridor master plan into motion certainly accelerated our timing and provided our investors with the confidence to move forward with The River District project,” Mitchell said. “We certainly support the proposal that will develop Tulsa’s greatest asset, the Arkansas River. The passage of the proposed plan on October 9 will only enhance further development of the river and overall investment in the Tulsa community.”
Lamson said the move to Jenks is not final and that, in the case of a move to a Tulsa suburb, the team would retain the Tulsa Drillers name.
Lamson also indicated the development, which is scheduled to begin construction in early 2008, would allow the Drillers to play at Jenks as early as 2010. “The county owns Drillers Stadium, and our lease runs through 2009,” he said in a previous interview.
But, in an era of park-like, amenity filled ballparks, outdated Driller Stadium is easily the oldest facility in the Texas League, Lamson said.
“Springfield and Corpus Christi came online in 2005. Little Rock will open in 2007, Springdale for 2008, Midland came on in 2002, and Frisco opened in 2003,” Lamson said. “Our stadium, built in 1981, and San Antonio, built in 1992, are the oldest in the Texas League.”
“We are behind because there have been so many changes made in the past 25 years since our existing facilities were built.”
Lamson said the trend is for a more city centric, fan-friendly atmosphere with a number of stations to entertain patrons.
“I would like a ballpark with an intimate setting on a large, seven or eight acre footprint,” he said. “It should contain a lot of fan friendliness, such as hospitality areas, a lot of leg room, picnic areas, a wide concourse that goes all the way around a park-like setting, and a play area for kids. A comfortable place that would last 30 or more years for the community.”
The Drillers have also explored the possibility of building in the proposed “East End” development in downtown Tulsa. The project, announced by Global Development Partners in late 2006, was to include 1.9 million SF of mixed-use development, including 450,000 SF of retail and dining space, 800 units of residential space, three hotels and 150,000 SF of office space. Drillers Stadium was to serve as the “centerpiece” of the development, which was expected to be complete by Spring 2009.
The development of the East End project now seems unlikely as The Nordam Group Inc. sued Global Development Partners, operating as Tulsa Partners I LLC, the developers of the East End, in 2006, claiming the Washington, D.C.-based company failed to complete terms of a purchase and sale agreement for a 14-block downtown property that would be the majority of the redevelopment effort.
Tom Seay, owner of Seayco Group of Bentonville, Ark., now holds contracts for the purchase of “a little more than 15 acres” that previously made up the core of Global Development’s plans.
The Seayco Group, primarily a 400,000-650,000-SF “big box” retail developer, plans to develop an urban-style Wal-Mart on the property. According to Seay, the erection of a new Driller Stadium is not part of Seayco’s development plan. ?

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