Sunday, April 28, 2013

Tulsa wants to host 2024 Olympics

Fresh from its successful stint as the host of the 2013 Bassmaster Classic this winter, the city of Tulsa has its hooks ready to snag a bigger fish — the 2024 Olympics.

Oklahoma's second largest city is one of several cities that received letters from the U.S. Olympic Committee asking whether they might be interested in hosting the games. Most of the inquiries went to major metropolitan areas, but a handful of letters went to smaller cities including Memphis, Tenn. and Portland, Ore. New York and Chicago previously lost bids for the 2012 and 2016 games.

"Some people think of Tulsa as a flyover, Dust Bowl town," said Neil Mavis, a member of the Tulsa 2024 Olympic Exploratory Committee. "Many people think of cowboys and Indians. ... Bidding for the Olympics is the one way to change those stereotypes."

And what better place to celebrate athletics in America than the state with the second largest Native-American population (behind California) in the country.

Tulsa is home to about 400,000 people, and is among the smallest on the list. The USOC says it was one of 10 cities to say it's looking into a bid.

"I see this as a great opportunity, I really do," Mayor Dewey Bartlett said. "If we come off looking a little lighthearted on it, so much the better, but we are serious about putting our name out there."

The city first gave thought to hosting the world about three years ago but Tulsa still has a lot of obstacles to overcome.

The Tulsa area has around 13,000 hotel rooms, far fewer than the 45,000 required, and Mavis said the city would have to finance and build an Olympic stadium to host major events. Tulsa's largest facilities now are the 30,000-seat Skelly Field at H.A. Chapman Stadium on the University of Tulsa's midtown campus and the 19,000-seat indoor arena at the BOK Center downtown.

And the price tag? It's steep: Mavis estimates it would take a $3.5 billion budget to host the Summer Games, though he insisted no local tax dollars would be used.

Atlanta was a smaller market city when it hosted the summer games in 1996 and it put the city on the world's radar — but it was also home to the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta Braves.  Tulsa would have to start from scratch.

"It's going out there and saying, `We want the big stuff,'" Tulsa councilwoman Karen Gilbert said. "It doesn't hurt to shoot for the stars, you know?"

If Tulsa learned one thing from the Bassmaster, it's you'll never catch the big one if you don't cast your line.

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