The council on April 3 received the reports on the MAPS 3 fairgrounds improvements and senior wellness centers from Mike Mize of Architectural Design Group, the lead consultant on MAPS 3.
Around $58.7 million in MAPS 3 money is set aside for fairgrounds improvements, such as parking and a new exposition center, while around $52.4 million will go toward funding four senior wellness centers.
The reports on the two projects already have been reviewed by their respective subcommittees, the MAPS 3 Citizens Advisory Board and MAPS 3 staff, and were intended to provide guidelines for architects and engineers selected to design the projects.
Phase 1 of the fairground improvements is limited to sewer, lighting, parking improvements and possible permanent restroom facilities, while the second phase consists of the construction of a new exposition hall.
Meanwhile, no sites have been selected yet for the four planned senior wellness centers. ADG consulted nationally recognized senior wellness center experts, as well as looked at existing centers elsewhere in the country to form a rough template of what the centers should be.
One of the goals is for each of the four facilities to be unique and relate directly to their specific community, Mize said.“Each facility needs to reflect the nature of its surrounding neighborhood; we think that is a very important guideline,” he said.
Because MAPS 3 is a temporary tax, however, there are no funds for operating the centers. The hope is that outside entities or a coalition will agree to takeover operations of the facilities.
Mize said a request for proposals issued near the beginning of the year attracted only two replies: one from the Oklahoma City-County Health Department, which said it likely would require some city funding to maintain operations, and the YMCA.
Council members wondered whether the specifications or regulations dealing with operating the centers might have driven away some prospective operators.
Ward 4 Councilman Pete White said Oklahoma City Community College had shown interest in the wellness centers during and after the MAPS 3 campaign, but was dissuaded by a provision requiring the city to retain some ownership of the buildings or land plot.
White suggested potential operators should have more input on the functions and specifications of the buildings.
“I worry that we’re not going to be able to attract people to put the money up to make it work unless we find a way to entice them by letting them design the plan,” White said. “It seems that these templates were drawn so tightly, they’re all going to be pretty much the same.”
Mize said the report contained several elements, any of which could be chosen by an operator and the city to play a bigger or smaller role in each individual center.
Mayor Mick Cornett also said that it appears enthusiasm of potential operators has waned.
“What we saw when we put out the initial [request for proposals] was great enthusiasm that seemed to diminish the further we got down the process,” Cornett said. “I would say at this point, I don’t think we’ve fully vetted the concept with the prospective operators.”
City Manager Jim Couch said the planning for the centers is still in the early stages, and that the centers, which were the least defined project in MAPS 3, are new territory.
“This is still in the formulation stages and I don’t think we’ve excluded anything at this point in time. I think we were hoping … to come up with someone whose mission is out there, and help them further their mission and bring some operating dollars to further the issue,” he said. “We’re kind of plowing new ground here, and people are a little hesitant to step up.”