ADG designed the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark over 20 years ago. We are thrilled to see a new season get started at “The Brick.”
Recently, the team gatheried community leaders together to talk about the turnaround made in downtown Oklahoma City since MAPS (Metropolitan Area Projects) made it mark, resulting in millions of dollars worth of spin-off development. It was great to hear so many community leaders talk about the success of MAPS starting with the successful completion of the Bricktown Ballpark. Opening Day was April 18th, 1998. We are excited to see The Dodgers’ 2017 season get underway soon. We’re fans!
Please see below for Barry Tramel’s coverage of the event and his perspective on how much Oklahoma City has changed and grown.
Civic home run: The Brick launched OKC’s renaissance 19 years ago
by Berry Tramel Published: February 23, 2017 12:00 AM CDT
Link to associated video: http://newsok.com/article/5539067
I walked through Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark on Tuesday. It’s February. The ballplayers won’t be here for six weeks. Still a long way from the games that bring the stadium to life.
But the grass was immaculately green. The architecture remains pristine. The sights create the sounds in the imagination. And the feeling Tuesday was the same feeling of 19 years ago, when the Brick opened not just as a ballyard but as a monument to civic possibility.
And that feeling was, wow.
Before the Thunder, before Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant and the NBA Finals, before hotels on virtually every corner and new downtown apartments rising by the month, before the Boathouse District, before the canal and all the restaurants and the art museum and the renovated Civic Center, before Devon Tower, Oklahoma City built a baseball park in Bricktown.
And hasn’t been the same since.
“We’ve been running on positive energy since that day,” said Mick Cornett, then a KOCO-5 sportscaster and now Oklahoma City’s longest-serving mayor.
On April 6, the Dodgers open their Pacific Coast League schedule — the 20th baseball season for the Brick. Can you believe it?
Can you believe it was the emotion the first time most of us saw the Bricktown Ballpark.
“When the ballpark opened, there was a sense of pride in Oklahoma City that I had never seen exist before,” Cornett said. “We kept looking around. Had a feel of a Major League stadium. Had a feel that you must be in some other city. It was just hard to imagine that this was really ours. It really belonged to Oklahoma City. That set the stage for the other MAPS projects.”
The Dodgers launched a celebration of the Brick’s 20th season with a luncheon Wednesday to benefit its foundation. The event was held in the Criterion, the cool concert venue on the east end of Bricktown that is just one more example of the OKC renaissance.
Cornett and his predecessor, Kirk Humphreys, told of the ballpark’s impact on the city and the psyche of its people. PCL president Branch B. Rickey spoke. The prevailing theme was how a ballpark ignited a city that dared to dream.
“As a city, we really had an inferiority complex, going back to the Great Depression,” Humphreys said. “It was kind of like we thought, if you want to do it right, go to Dallas. With the opening of the ballpark, we began to believe we could do it right here in Oklahoma City. The ballpark changed how we felt about our city and ourselves. It was a turning point in our city.”
Some politicians resort to hyperbole. But not this time.
Cornett recited Oklahoma City’s history. How after government built some grandiose structures — the state capitol, regal Central High School — in the early part of the 20th century, it became budget-conscious during and after the Depression, and the citizenry came to expect little in the way of excellence.
“We went through decades of doing nothing special,” Cornett said. “People had become accustomed that government didn’t do anything worth remembering.”
The cursed Oklahoma County jail being exhibit A. But a city that was sluggish in the ’70s and virtually dormant in the ’80s voted to reinvent itself in the ’90s with MAPS, the Metropolitan Area Projects. And the first major project was the ballpark. Then-Mayor Ron Norick pushed through the plan, current City Manager Jim Couch rescued it from funding problems and when the ballpark opened on April 16, 1998, Oklahoma City was a changed place.
“The line I use,” Cornett said, “and nobody has ever contested it, ‘No city in America has come as far as fast as Oklahoma City,’ and the ballpark was the beginning of that.”
Dodgers president Michael Byrnes held up a copy of the April 12, 1998, Oklahoman, which ran a special section on the ballpark, leading with the headline, “Our Field of Dreams.”
“Our” was the operative word.
“Aren’t we glad we built it right in the middle of Bricktown?” said Humphreys, who took office three days before the ballpark opened. “It’s changed our city. Everyone I saw, everyone I heard from, everyone I talked to, took such great pride in it.”
Years later, Humphreys and his wife, Danna, were walking downtown towards the announcement of the Devon Tower construction.
“My wife said, ‘I’ll bet if we hadn’t done MAPS, they’d be building this building in the suburbs,’” Humphreys said. “I said, ‘No, they’d be building it in Houston.’”
Devon president Larry Nichols later told him that was spot on, that without MAPS, Devon would have had to relocate, because the oil company couldn’t attract the necessary talent. Now, Oklahoma City is listed as one of America’s desired spots for millennials.
Bricktown and Deep Deuce and Midtown are a major reason for that. But they are prospering because of the Thunder and the new vibe that permeates the central city. And all of that started with a ballpark made of bricks.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.