| Wednesday, August 28, 2002 13:32 EST
Oklahoma a strong contender
EDMOND, Okla. -- Oklahoma has a very good chance of landing
a Major League Soccer franchise as the Oklahoma City metropolitan
area and Tulsa compete for one of four new teams, a league official
"I know that there is great promise in the sport of soccer in
the state of Oklahoma,'' Lamar Hunt, a league investor who owns
franchises in Kansas City, Mo., and Columbus, Ohio, said Tuesday.
"Oklahoma, like the rest of the country, has a youth explosion.''
Officials from Edmond, representing the Oklahoma City area,
displayed plans Tuesday for renovating the stadium at the
University of Central Oklahoma to house a professional soccer team.
The 50-year-old stadium could be rebuilt into a three-tiered
multipurpose facility with 16,000 permanent seats and 7,000 more
retractable bleacher seats, said Kansas City architects CDFM2. The
stadium's cost is still being estimated, the firm said.
"It would sort of have an Ivy League look,'' said Bill Johnson,
CDFM2's design director. "We are using extensive use of red brick,
a very traditional feel, timeless quality like for the campus.''
Hunt, who also owns the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs, attended the
meeting for the MLS and said the league has narrowed its search
down to seven or eight cities for its 2006 expansion. In recent
weeks he has met with Tulsa officials, but wouldn't compare the two
The trip to Edmond "is more of a fact finding trip and I
certainly can't find any cons here,'' Hunt said. "Everything that
I saw was positive. It would open a new frontier for Major League
Soccer, a new territory.''
"The facility is what the MLS is looking for. It also has the
growth potential and the flexibility of use for other ventures,
high school and college.''
Edmond has not determined who would pay for the stadium or how,
and is seeking more public input, said Tracey Osborne, chairwoman
of the city's stadium committee.
Oklahoma City's bid is helped by the expertise of Bob Funk, the
owner of Express Personnel and Express Sports, a marketing and
promotion firm that owns the Oklahoma City Blazers minor league
"We promised the mayor and the City Council we would
investigate any major league opportunities,'' Funk said. "So far
we've had two NHL and two NBA contacts, and now the MLS.''
Tulsa officials, who are still deciding where a stadium would be
located, will meet with league officials again Thursday.
Tulsa made a bid for an MLS team when the league organized eight
years ago but was denied when the league rejected Skelly Stadium on
the campus of the University of Tulsa. This time around, the city
is trying to arrange financing for a new stadium.