A newly established consortium is set to help city leaders lure various sporting events.
BY TIM FARLEY
Bringing the Summer X Games or a Grand Prix race to the metro area would receive top priority from the Greater Oklahoma City Sports Consortium, a not-for-profit advisory group formed earlier this year.
The entity is the brainchild of Bob Funk Jr. and other sports industry professionals in the metro.
Attracting large-scale professional sporting events is the goal of the 15-member consortium.
“We want to share informational resources and expertise to give Oklahoma City the best advice as to large-scale pro events and how they should proceed,” said Funk, owner and president of Prodigal LLC, which operates the Oklahoma City Barons of the American Hockey League.
“We are not a local organizing committee that produces events. We are an advisory council.”
It includes representatives from the City of Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau, Oklahoma City All Sports Association, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Barons, the Oklahoma City RedHawks baseball team, OKC Boathouse Foundation, Oklahoma State Fair, Oklahoma City University, the University of Central Oklahoma, the Amateur Softball Association of America, SMG and three at-large positions.
“As the consortium, we will analyze every potential event from A to Z and then make our recommendation to the city. We want to be able to tell them (the city council), ‘Here’s what you should do,’ or, ‘No, this won’t work,’” Funk said. “We want to give every event the best chance for success.”
On March 19, Oklahoma City Council approved a memorandum of understanding that allows the group to advise elected officials about potential sporting and special events that could be held in the city. The agreement will be in force for five years and does not require any public funding.
Mayor Mick Cornett approved the deal but expressed some reservations.
“My concern is it could be used as a roadblock to prevent outside promoters from doing anything in Oklahoma City,” he said.
On the flip side, Cornett said the consortium “might provide some order and a process to allow everyone to be in touch with everyone else,” but cautioned that the “actual execution of it remains to be seen.”
We want to give every event the best chance for success.
—Bob Funk Jr.
As far as Funk is concerned, all largescale professional sporting events are on the table.
“Oklahoma City has grown at such a rate that nothing should keep us from looking at any event,” he said. “More than a few years ago, we were too small to think about something like this, but things are different today.”
OKC has some experience hosting major events such as the 1989 Olympic Festival, a 38-sport, 13-day attraction that placed the city in the national spotlight. Moreover, the city has hosted international softball tournaments, NCAA regional basketball and wrestling competitions and the annual College World Series for softball.
Funk said the consortium will not interfere with existing amateur and college events regularly held n Oklahoma City.
In its early stages, the group will rely on the OKC Convention and Visitors Bureau for possible projects to analyze. As Funk points out, however, consortium members can bring forth ideas through their respective networks of contacts.
For instance, bringing a NASCAR race to Oklahoma City is a possibility the consortium might examine. So is a Grand Prix event, once seen as a viable attraction for the metro.
“We would look at auto racing as a potential project. There are comparable markets that host a race,” Funk said.
Thinking bigger, Funk used the Pan American Games and the Summer X Games as examples of events the consortium and local officials would pursue.
“You have to ask the questions, ‘What does that event entail? When does it occur?’ You would have to look at the facilities in the city. Do we functionally have the facilities to host an event like the Pan Am Games?” he said.