BOK Center, Cox Business Convention Center Struggling To Book And Keep Events

Jul 24, 2020

Updated Aug. 4, 12:05 p.m. to correct "Cox Business Center" to "Cox Business Convention Center."

One month after their controversial booking of President Trump's 6,000-person reelection rally, representatives of the BOK Center and the Cox Business Convention Center in downtown Tulsa are expressing worry over how hard it is to keep events on the schedule.

"It's still very -- a little concerning the amount of events that continue to fall off," said Casey Sparks, the general manager of the two event spaces, on a virtual meeting of the Tulsa Public Facilities Meeting on Thursday.

Joe Giordano, an assistant general manager, said one challenge is that performers and booking agents worry that they could take a public relations blow by holding an event while the coronavirus continues to rage uncontrolled across the country.

"I think people are noticing that if you do a show, even as small as a comedy club show, there is a bad PR sense of doing those shows right now," Giordano said. "So, I think people are just taking a step back, hoping we can get this whole virus under control."

Despite what Tulsa Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart describes as a "surge" of new cases, Tulsa does not currently have an outright ban on large events. By order of Mayor G.T. Bynum, a rule took effect that events of 500 people or more are required to submit a COVID-19 safety plan to the Tulsa Health Department, which must approve the plan and the event.

This month in Tulsa, large events have included (but are not limited to) the weeklong National Junior Angus Show at Expo Square, and the funeral for Tulsa Police Sgt. Craig Johnson at Victory Christian Church.

As far as safety plans, Sparks said they have a bit of a head start.

"Obviously we're a little bit ahead of the game because we had to really get ready for the same scenario with Trump," she said.

A recent document from the White House coronavirus task force, obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, reveals that the federal recommendation for Tulsa, Oklahoma, Okmulgee, and Ottawa counties include limiting gatherings to no more than 10 people and closing all bars, among other measures, due to the severity of the outbreaks in those counties.