Groundbreaking set for new state tourism building

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OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma Tourism Department is moving forward with plans to build a new agency building.

The groundbreaking is set for October 24 at the next commission meeting.

Tourism has been renting space in the Commerce building since 2015 when they were unexpectedly kicked out of their office space at the First National building downtown.

But, officials said it is cramped quarters there, they can’t even house all their employees in the space and are forced to rent space elsewhere, as well.

The new building would sit just south of the commerce building and actually be connected to it.

“The bond is up to $9 million. We’re still negotiating cost. We’re very cognizant that we’re using taxpayer dollars, and we’re always sure to use taxpayer dollars in the wisest way,” said Leslie Blair with the Tourism Department.

Blair said renting space from commerce was never a long-term solution.

"It's been three years, and we're still here. We've been working with OMES all that time to try to find the best situation, you know, was it renting another building? Was it building a building?” she said.

But, not everyone is on board with spending millions on a new building.

Sterling Zearley, the executive director of the Oklahoma Public Employees Association, said the $9 million that would go towards paying the bonds would be better spent at state parks that actually generate money for the state.

"$9 million would go a long way in renovation of cabins, golf course and lodges, and just think about the economic impact that has in those local communities and the state because every dollar spent in tourism generates $7 on the dollar,” Zearley said.

Zearley said their members who work for tourism are upset the agency is moving forward with the new building.

"And, the people of Oklahoma that visit those state parks should be outraged because they go out to spend their money in those areas, and take their children and have a great time with their families. And, like I said, they're not going to come in an office building and spend money,” Zearley said.

Zearley is actually calling on the governor and legislature to step in and put a stop to the new building.

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