The meetings infrastructure in Oklahoma is leveling up with big news from two of its group-friendly players.
In Oklahoma City (OKC), the brand-new Oklahoma City Convention Center, slated to open in 2020, and a 605-room Omni-branded headquarters hotel are on the way, adding thousands of square feet of meeting space to the city.
“This totally new convention center marks a significant milestone in OKC’s commitment to the meetings and convention industry,” said Michael Carrier, president for the Oklahoma City CVB. “This is the only totally new-build convention center underway in the United States.”
Tulsa is also addressing a growing demand for larger meeting/exhibit space with a multimillion-dollar renovation of its Cox Business Center.
“While event organizers are creating bigger, reimagined experiences for their attendees, we are busy working to accommodate their needs,” said Ray Hoyt, president of Tulsa Regional Tourism.
Oklahoma City Convention Center Rendering
“As one of our most widely used event venues, the Cox Business Center is adding an additional 40,000 square feet of new meeting space to better serve national conferences and conventions,” Hoyt said. “This expansion will allow the facility to offer 70,000 square feet of ballroom space and over 100,000 square feet of column-free exhibit hall space, which will really enhance our ability to attract and retain premier events in Tulsa.”
The Savory Sooner State
If convention space news is the main course on the Sooner State’s menu, the side dish is an array of fun culinary experiences that planners can consider adding to make the meeting more memorable.
Following are some delicious ideas for groups, including team bonding during a cooking class, exploring the host city via a brew tour and dining together in private space at a restaurant.
News in Oklahoma City reaches beyond the construction of the future convention center to the city’s culinary scene, including the newly opened Sur La Table, which offers hands-on cooking classes for up to 24 people.
According to Tabbi Burwell, senior manager of destination communications for the Oklahoma City CVB, custom menus, including those with Oklahoma-inspired dishes, could be created for groups that book a Sur La Table class in advance.
The Tasting Room, an entertainment venue that accommodates group meal functions, also offers cooking classes, especially food pairings.
In other news, the historic 23rd Street Armory, which previously housed the Oklahoma Army National Guard, will be restored into the new home of Oklahoma’s Coop Ale Works Brewery. The multimillion-dollar update of the building will begin this spring and transform it into a brewhouse, 34-room boutique hotel with event space, and a full-service restaurant and taproom.
Meanwhile, among many other options for a beer-loving group, planners can arrange a visit to Vanessa House Beer Co., the city’s newest brewery, located in the city’s Automobile Alley district, and Brewers Union, a taproom opened in September 2017 near the Oklahoma State Fair.
Small groups that would like a sit-down meal will enjoy Ludivine, which offers a tasting menu and a rotating menu that incorporates what’s in season at local farms. And at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, groups of up to 1,500 people can book A Date with the Duke, which involves eating a buffet dinner while watching a classic John Wayne movie.
Speaking of cowboys, Burwell also recommended a group meal at Cattlemen’s Steakhouse, Oklahoma’s oldest continually operated restaurant, located in historic Stockyards City.
“You won’t find anything more authentic than an experience at Cattlemen’s Steakhouse,” she said. “The artwork shows the history of this 100-plus-year-old restaurant. You’ll see real cowboys come in and plenty of out-of-towners looking for a good steak and a chance to try lamb fries, which are a must.”
Groups can reserve space upstairs or next door at Cattlemen’s Special Event Center, she added.
An eclectic restaurant scene spices up the group experience in Tulsa, according to Jessica Lowe-Betts, vice president of marketing and branding for VisitTulsa.
“With mouthwatering barbecue at Burn Co., puffy tacos at Elote, to fresh oysters at the new Peacemaker Lobster & Crab restaurant in the Blue Dome District, Tulsa has something to satisfy every taste bud,” she said.
Peacemaker Lobster & Crab, Tulsa
Oklahoma’s first food hall, Mother Road Market, opened in November 2018 on historic Route 66. Here, groups could explore over 20 restaurant and retail concepts under one roof, as well as entertainment and educational programming.
Mother Road Market, Tulsa
Additionally, groups can rent the on-site demonstration kitchen for private events such as food and wine pairings, or a business meeting.
Tulsa is also home to a growing craft beer scene that groups can check out, including a Pearl Brewery Tour that will introduce attendees to the city’s most popular microbreweries.
Tour locations include Prairie Brewpub, located in the heart of the Tulsa Arts District, and Marshall Brewing Co., which has a newly opened 3,000-square-foot taproom.
“Marshall’s community tables provide a great atmosphere for beer tasting and networking,” Lowe-Betts said. “Marshall’s also has innovative plans to develop additional outdoor space for group activities and a community garden in the near future.”
A favorite place for group dining in Norman is Legend’s Restaurant, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in September.
According to Stefanie Brickman, communications manager for Visit Norman, the restaurant has a banquet room and there is additional space located next door that accommodates larger groups.
“It is increasingly rare for a locally owned restaurant to stay open for 50 years, but Legend’s has offered a high-quality menu for decades,” Brickman said.
“Normanites know Legend’s for a fancy steak dinner and their delicious desserts.”
At International Pantry, a locally owned kitchenware store, groups can shop and also participate in various cooking classes.
“Norman has been so fortunate to have International Pantry leading the way for unique culinary classes along with a selection of quality cookware, bakeware and so much more,” Brickman said.
A fun shopping opportunity for foodies in the group is available in Shawnee, too, at Savvy Bites Gifts and Kitchen Specialties, a locally owned store that sells kitchen gadgets and specialty food items.
“Groups can sample over 50 different flavor-infused extra virgin olive oils and flavored gourmet balsamic vinegars,” said Amanda Teape Johnson, director of marketing for Visit Shawnee.
Savvy Bites, which also sells kitchen linens and dishes, bar accessories, candles and bath products, grooming products and more, has a small space for tasting or cooking demonstrations.
Also located here is Van’s Pig Stand, Oklahoma’s oldest barbecue restaurant, which began in Shawnee in 1930 and is well known for its delicious food and friendly service.
“From pig sandwiches to ‘Van-ized’ potatoes, there is a mouthwatering treat on the menu for everyone,” Teape Johnson said. “There is a great space for groups to dine together and enjoy this Oklahoma treat.”
Oklahoma CVB Contact Information
Oklahoma City CVB
VisitTulsa, Tulsa CVB
Click over to page 2 for an interview with Executive Chef Justin Thompson and a Roasted Pear and Pecan Salad recipe...