Sunday, March 28, 2010

Bricktown

The political will that it took to undertake the renovation of the warehouse district of Oklahoma City must have been amazing. Though there is no evidence remaining, I have been told that it was the pittiest of the pits, filled with the relics of cast-off oil field equipment, trash heaps, crime, environmental hazards, every icky, dangerous and unsightly thing you can imagine.

Then along came Mayor Ron Norick, who not only had the vision of what Bricktown could be, but also the energy, stamina, strength of character and the political savvy to make it happen. I come from North Platte Nebraska. There is actually a book out about North Platte named "That Town Fights About Everything." I can just imagine the opposition to the one cent sales tax, the idea of digging out streets to build canals, and many others of the nine projects that comprised MAPS, the Metropolitan Area Projects.

Because Oklahoma had no natural resources with which to build during its period of explosive growth, factories that made bricks out of the red dirt of the area sprang up in abundance. The area had been renamed Bricktown.

One of the projects was the Bricktown Ballpark. This stadium is the home of the Red Hawks, a AAA franchise of the Texas Rangers. Our guide told us that the facility is acutally the little brother of Ranger Stadium. However, he was quick to point out that the most inexpensive seat in the stadium is $7.00, while the most expensive seat, right behind home plate, is a whopping $18.00. Now that is an affordable day at the ballpark.
The renovation project that makes Oklahoma City the most unique of vibrant city center entertainment districts is the Bricktown Canal. The original segments of the canal were actually streets that were dug out to create the canal.

It meanders through an incredible array of shops, restaurants, bars and attractions and is serviced by a watertaxi. Day passes which include unlimited on and offs are $8.00, so it's quite reasonable. I see on their website that in ten years of operation, they have carried more than a million passengers. I want to take this opportunity to mention the Trolley as well. Fares are only a quarter to go anywhere in the downtown area. While I didn't travel on it myself, some of my companions found it to be a wonderful way to get around.
As with any tourism business, the hardware is great, but it is the software that makes it amazing. The software in this case was Captain Mason, who did an outstanding job. He was extremely knowledgeable about the area, the establishments we passed, and was funny, entertaining and personable. If all of their guides are up to Captain Mason's standards, then they should reach their two millionth visitor in no time at all.
I am going to say this wonderful mosiac is the west end of the canal. That's going to be a true statement unless my directions got totally turned around down there. Anyway, this is in the heart of the Bricktown area. Facing the mosiac, on the right (which I take to be north) is the Biting Sow (which, incredibly, doesn't have a website!), which our guide confirmed as the hottest blues venue in OKC. To the left is Zios Italian Restaurant.
The watertaxi filled with our compadres has to pull aside to let us pass. Fortunately no one had any squirt guns.
The canal is a popular area for all kinds of two-legged creatures.
This beautiful mural depicts one street in downtown OKC as it is transformed over time. Our guide mentioned that not one time since it was painted has it been defaced by graffiti. There are many beautiful murals throughout the area, and we didn't see any evidence of vandalism.
Toby Keith resides nearby and his "I Love This Bar and Grille" are right on the water. He and his family sometimes do enjoy a meal there. Our guide mentioned that any active or retired military personnel are treated to a one-time hamburger meal. Thank you Toby Keith!
The largest waterfall in downtown Oklahoma City, which doubles as a component of the canal filtration system.
The Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World have been a popular addition to the retail landscape in the downtown, and make a fitting sight along the canal. I would have been more excited had it been a Cabelas!
Do you know your Oklahoma history? Oklahoma only celebrated its Centennial in 2007, making it one of the more recent to receive statehood. The iconic names of Boomers and Sooners are related to the land run in 1889 when the former Indian Territory was opened for settlement. It is a fascinating and unique history that is memorialized in the Land Run Monument, which when finished, will be the largest freestanding bronze sculptures in the world.
When completed it will contain 45, one-and-a-half-times life size sculptures that are incredibly historically accurate.
In another incredible example of entrepreneurial ingenuity, a converted abandoned grain elevator is now the home of the Rocktown Climbing Gym. There are indoor and outdoor climbs of up to 90 feet tall. Who would have thought?? Please go to their website and check out the information and pictures. I don't know anything about rock climbing, and this is as close as we got, but I had to tell you about it!
The tour does continue after this, but that will have to wait for another post!

Thank you for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

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