Improvements to the OKC Fairgrounds secure Oklahoma City’s status as the nation’s ‘horse show capitol,’ while boosting tourism dollars.
Just outside Oklahoma City’s downtown sits the OKC Fairgrounds. The 240-acre Fairgrounds plays host to not only the annual Oklahoma State Fair, but also some of the nation’s largest livestock, equestrian competitions and rodeos, plus numerous expos, concerts and community events. These and additional major trade shows add millions of dollars to the city’s economy each year. The project impetus was that the aging and inadequate facilities threatened to diminish the number and type of shows that the Fairgrounds could host, attract and retain. Some shows had in fact been lost.
FSB worked with consultants GH2 Gralla Equine Architects to create a master plan and an outline for current and future projects that would solve this increasing problem. The master plan required the team to rethink the park’s existing layout to ensure greater connectivity between major facilities and to modernize a number of aging structures, including the 8,500-seat Jim Norick Arena. Careful consideration was given to accommodating the scheduling needs of the equestrian activities, so that there would be minimum disruption to the established event schedule. The coordination of this schedule with project budgeting and encumbrance projections resulted in the creation of a five-year, multi-phased design and implementation plan.
Scheduled upgrades in the master plan have been completed on a number of existing buildings, increasing the overall stall count to 3,200. A number of new facilities were added, specifically a new Super Barn adjacent to the Jim Norick Arena, additional regular barns, an outdoor covered exercise area and a restaurant. The quality of the horse stalls and amenities were upgraded significantly. The indoor arena itself underwent extensive renovation, as did the Fairgrounds’ sales arena. Major redevelopment and consolidation of more than 40 years of utility infrastructure and surface infrastructure was another critical piece of the plan. The addition of 30 RV/trailer spaces, a new parking lot, a realignment of the Fairground’s main north/south roadway, creation of a pedestrian thoroughfare and other road improvements rounded out the massive project.
Successfully completed, these renovations are rejuvenating the park, enabling it to continue hosting local, regional, national and international shows and events. These renovations have drawn approximately 60 additional events to the Fairgrounds each year, bringing in an additional 300,000 attendees.