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This Week - Steve Rambles a Bit About Downtown, Stadiums, a World's Fair and the Apple IIc PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Lackmeyer   
Monday, 20 April 2009 00:25



This week in 1984 was pretty important because I was about to embark into the unknown – life after high school. So indulge me while I mix a bit of history with personal ramblings and even some pop culture (Jack will certainly bring us back to some serious history next week).

Feeling nostalgic, I delved into The Oklahoman archives to find out what was happening in the real world as I was preparing to graduate. My first observation: the American flag is missing from the masthead and the front page has a fairly clean design for its era and nice big art. That’s a shocker because at some point the paper lost some ground and went back to a pretty cluttered presentation.

The first article that caught my attention was on the editorial page where we’re treated to the headline “OKC Needs a New Stadium”:

“Does Oklahoma City have a future in the steadily expanding world of major league franchises, huge conventions and concerns?

The answer is probably not – if the city stands pat with the existing facilities it now offers.

Prospects of a 65,000-seat domed stadium in Tulsa, which a group of investors reportedly has under consideration pending completion of a feasibility study, poses a direct challenge to the capital city.”

The editorial goes on to mention how Baltimore lost the Costs to Indianapolis, and how a new stadium would benefit Oklahoma City’s 1989 World’s Fair and prevent the loss of the National Finals Rodeo.

We now know that the 1989 World’s Fair was doomed to never happen, not because of anything in Oklahoma City, but simply because they were turning into financial boondoggles. And the NFR? Yes, it left for Las Vegas and never looked back.

The late Mary Jo Nelson – the veteran reporter who I consider my role model – probably could have told the powers above that they would not realize their dreams for a revitalized downtown hosting a World’s Fair. In this same Sunday paper she wrote about troubles at that year’s fair in New Orleans and followed that up with news that plans to build a four-block retail Galleria at Hudson and Sheridan were dead.

Big holes were to be found throughout the central business district where hundreds of buildings had been razed the decade earlier to make way for a new downtown.

Then Mayor Andy Coats responded “Boy, I just don’t know” when asked by Nelson if reconstruction of the central business district could be completed by 1989.

“I think things are on track; we’re moving in that direction,” Coats said. “But obviously the economics of downtown are going to have to improve and we’ll have digest Leadership Square.”

So what’s the rest of the story? The world’s fair was scrapped and replaced by an Olympic Festival that was probably a better deal for a city trying to recover from the lingering oil bust. Leadership Square is a success, MAPS completed much of the central business district revival envisioned years earlier.

And the Galleria? It was never built. And that’s a good thing, considering how malls throughout the country, not just in urban areas but the suburbs too, seem to be failing. And the site, the last in the Central Business District left undeveloped, is now set to be the home of a new 54-story Devon Energy world headquarters – a tower so tall not even Dean A. McGee could have dreamed up something so big. 

The year 1984 didn’t end all too badly for myself, though I certainly had no clue as to what was ahead. In high school I considered a life in either journalism or politics. So I enrolled at Central State University to pursue an accounting degree. I was the proud owner of my first brand new car – a Chevrolet Chevette. Yeah, I was clueless. And the new Apple IIc (advertised in the business section as “8 lbs. Under $1,300”) arrived at my house and was a pretty nifty home computer for the remainder of the decade.



Last Updated on Sunday, 26 April 2009 15:35