The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

June 12, 2013

A new sports home for Enid

By Ryan Costello, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Its first sporting event is more than a month away, but the newly completed Enid Event Center officially is open.

Enid High School athletics and activities director Bill Mayberry, who will have a part in organizing much of the event center’s EHS sporting events, toured the facility before Wednesday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“I liked everything about it,” Mayberry said.

Configured for sporting events, the 4,521-capacity event center will hold 3,200, with seats extending to within eight feet of the court.

“It’s set up to where you’re right on top of the action,” said Enid Event Center General Manager Keller Taylor.

The court itself will have a natural oak finish, with navy blue accents matched to the Enid High School’s traditional blue.

The floor will have Pacer and Plainsmen branding, as well as the Enid Event Center logo at center court. The removable floor is scheduled to be installed in early July, in time for a Mid-America Youth Basketball tournament, a 40-plus-team event slated to be the Enid Event Center’s first sporting event, July 19-21.

Screens above the top row of seats at the center’s north and south ends will serve as scoreboards for sporting events. The 8-foot-tall, 13-foot-wide screens also are capable of playing advertisements and pre-recorded video, but currently not instant replays, Taylor said.

In its agreement with the Enid Event Center and facility manager Global Spectrum, Enid Public Schools will pay $32,000 per year for 11 events each year. The agreement is for 10 years, and is based on the cost of basketball-related equipment installed at the facility, which amounted to approximately $320,000, according to Taylor.

The first EHS sporting event in the newly finished arena likely will be Pacers volleyball, which will play some dates in the event center, but not a full home schedule. EHS basketball is scheduled to play its entire home slate in the new center, and the annual Skeltur Conference Tournament, which was held at the Mabee Center and Chisholm Trail Expo Center after its 46-year run at Convention Hall’s Mark Price Arena, will move next door to its old home in January. The Mid-America Nationals, a seven-mat, 1,000-wrestler tournament, is slated for Dec. 13-14 at the event center.

Taylor expects the list of sporting events to expand in the years after the event center is fully established and the Hilton Garden Inn hotel planned to the building’s north is completed.

“We’re probably looking a year or two down the road once we have the hotel, we’re looking at 40 events a year,” he said. “At this point, our focus is trying to build a good relationship with the users in the space. The OSSAA (Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association) hosts a number events that would be a good fit for this center.”

Those 40 events would include prep sports and tournaments, potentially adding mixed martial arts events, some semi-professional level exhibitions and possibly National Junior College Athletic Association tournaments, which Taylor said event center representatives discussed with NJCAA officials during the NJCAA Division II Baseball World Series that was hosted two weeks ago at David Allen Memorial Ballpark. 

“We had some good talks with them,” Taylor said. “There are some tournaments out there that we’re looking to based on those conversations.”

Taylor hopes the event center’s sporting events will help win over a section of Enid that was against the idea of the building to begin with.

Enid voters turned down a $20 million bond issue in August 2010 that would have added to $20 million the city had set aside for the project, then called Gateway Enid. The bond issue was voted down 4,023 to 3,892, leading to the since-adapted Enid Renaissance Program.

Even without the use of bonds in the project, some community members remained skeptical, a group Taylor hopes to win over.

“I would love for them to check out the facility and see the finished product,” he said.

Mayberry, who said some of the parents of EHS athletes are among those originally against the event center, likened the new building to David Allen Memorial Ballpark, which was completed in 1999 and is home to Mayberry’s office.

“I think we, as in our parent group and our school community group, are the same cross-section as the community as a whole,” he said. “There’s different opinions. All I knew was our kids are getting a very nice place to play.

“We started out the very first year at David Allen, we were hosting T-ball tournaments,” he added.

“We were hosting everything we could. We’re now hosting the (Division II) Junior College World Series. I foresee the same thing happening for them.”