Damages from 1999 Tornado
On May 3, 1999, Midwest City and other parts of Oklahoma experienced the tremendous damage associated with an F-5 tornado. In a few short moments, three lives were lost along with 546 residential units and 25 commercial businesses completely destroyed or substantially damaged. Especially hard hit was Midwest City’s hospitality district located at I-40 and Sooner Road where three hotels and several restaurants were completely destroyed. Immediately north of the hospital district, a number of homes, an apartment complex, a church and many small businesses were in the path of the tornado. And beyond still was a large housing addition. All sustained extensive damage or were destroyed. The following morning, City leaders surveyed the damage to the area and met with local business owners to determine needs and long-term plans for rebuilding.
In the hospitality district, an idea emerged. For some time, the City had considered building a small conference center to promote tourism in the community. Early planning for the conference center had placed it approximately a mile away in the downtown redevelopment area. However, with the tornado inflicting such heavy damage on the hospitality district and with rebuilding concerns expressed by some hotel owners, it became clear to the City leaders that there was an immediate need to build the conference center in the hospitality district to quell any rebuilding hesitations. With the assistance of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the City quickly assembled a team of consultants to help develop preliminary concepts for the conference center.
The rebuilding of the hospitality district began in 1999. First, the Studio 6, which was under construction, sustained heavy damages and was repaired. This was followed by the reconstruction of the Hampton Inn. Before the tornado, the Hampton Inn contained 69 rooms. In rebuilding, the owners chose to add a third story and increase the number of rooms to 102. The Comfort Inn and Suites soon followed with its reconstruction. Taking the opportunity to reconfigure the site, the owners built a 78 room hotel. Though the hotel contained fewer rooms, the reconfiguration allowed for the creation of two restaurant out- parcels. The owners of the Comfort Inn and Suites also chose to build another 78 room hotel, the Holiday Inn & Suites, on land they already owned in the area. The final hotel to be built was the Amerisuites. The 80 room hotel was constructed where the Clarion Hotel once existed. The property owner also chose to reconfigure the site, reducing the number of rooms but creating a restaurant out-parcel. In total, the construction and repair of the hotels represents and investment of over $17,000,000 in the hospitality district area, employing approximately 140 full and part-time persons.
Investments in the District
While the hotels were being rebuilt, the City was moving forward with the conference center project – acquiring property, preparing architectural and engineering construction drawings, and arranging financing for the project. Integral to the project, were grants from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. A total of $4.5 million dollars of the $17 million dollar conference center project was funded with federal grants. The grants would not have been possible without the assistance of Oklahoma’s current and past congressional delegation.
Other efforts in the overall economic revitalization of the area included an area just outside the hospitality district between SE 15th Street and Will Rogers Road. The area contained older single family homes on large lots and businesses along SE 15th Street which were heavily damaged or destroyed. The City assembled property in the area, culminating with the purchase and construction of the largest Home Depot in the metropolitan area. This represented a significant investment in the area, with the store valued between$10,000,000 and $11,000,000. In addition, the Home Depot employs approximately 160 persons in full and part-time positions representing an annual payroll of approximately $5,000,000. Also, at this time, Sooner Road Baptist Church began its reconstruction.
Within the hospitality district, the conference center project began to take shape. New roads and traffic signals were constructed and additional water, sewer and drainage facilities were installed throughout the site. In the Spring of 2001, construction on the conference center officially began. During the next two years, steady construction progress and changes to the building design improved and enhanced the usefulness of the facility. One such change was the inclusion of the tiered amphitheater.
In, 2002, the conference center officially became the Reed Center by the Midwest City Council, in recognition of the Reed family and their contributions to the Midwest City community. Also, in 2002 the City chose the DePalma Corporation, a Texas based corporation that specializes in hotel and conference center management, to operate the Reed Center offers a unique facility that can host intimate family gatherings, social events, high-tech business conferences, educational and professional meetings, and large trade shows. Flexible spaces highlight the facility, to include a banquet room that can accommodate a capacity range of 300 to 700 persons, theater seating that can seat from 35 to 1,000 people, two large reception areas that can accommodate over 1,100 persons in each area and nine conference rooms for groups of 9 to 30. The Reed Center’s many other features include broadband internet service, computer networking, video conferencing, conference tables with hard, non-reflective finishes, high back ergonomic chairs and a storm shelter. All of which is offered in a facility located on beautifully landscaped grounds containing picturesque walking trails and calming water features, within walking distance of four newly constructed hotels.