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GREENWOOD, Okla.–North Tulsa community leaders are expressing frustration and concern after discussions of building a new stadium in the Greenwood district came to light this week. The revelations began after audio began circulating of an interview with Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell on The Blitz 1170.
“They’re going to be needing a new stadium,” Pinnell said when asked about the future of the FC Tulsa soccer team. “We’re looking at ideas there.”
Pinnell mentioned the potential of building a new stadium on the [Evans] Fintube location.
“There will be some future announcements,” Pinnell assured. “We have an amazing soccer club that wants to be in downtown Tulsa.”
The comments have raised red flags for some North Tulsa leaders who see this as an attempt to override community voices. The Evans-Fintube area the Lt. Governor mentioned as a potential site for the new stadium sits in the heart of Greenwood. Officials promised that North Tulsans’ voices would have the ultimate say in the final development of the space.
The frustration many community leaders are expressing is not rooted in opposition to a team or a venue, but in the fear of another broken promise by elected leaders nearly 101 years after the massacre.
Community engagement feedback records don’t include mention of a new stadium in Greenwood
The Evans-Fintube site, owned by the city of Tulsa, is undergoing a community engagement process. The purpose is for community voices to guide the vision of the future of the space.
Wounds from the city’s decision to build the Driller’s stadium in Greenwood over a decade ago are still fresh. Community leaders contend that the remains of Greenwood residents murdered in the 1921 Massacre may have been buried where the stadium now sits.
That community voice, however, has not included calls for another stadium, according to notes from community meetings documented on the city’s website.
According to multiple sources, the idea of a new stadium located specifically in Greenwood was put forth by one of the teams competing for the contract to develop the site.
That team includes E Smith Legacy Holdings out of Texas alongside Rose Rock Development and Pivot Project out of Oklahoma City. Their group has entitled their project “Greenwood Phoenix”.
They are one of two teams remaining in the running for the development contract with the city. According to a report from the Tulsa World, the other group remaining is “Team Alchemy”, comprised of BeGood Development and J. E. Dunn.
The World reports that two other groups have exited the process. One team withdrew their proposal and the other, Twenty20 Management, failed to advance “after the review committee determined that the company’s final proposal lacked key elements” of the RFP.
It is not immediately clear, however, which elements were missing or what the exact rating criteria was.
In an October 19th meeting, community members expressed desire for a proposal that combats Greenwood’s gentrification.
“Development should be focused on building wealth for North Tulsans, but also protect against gentrification that may come with a development project of this scale,” the summary memo reads.
City leaders address Lt. Governor’s comments amid community backlash
When asked about the stadium in an interview on Monday, Mayor GT Bynum said he found the idea exciting, but would “largely defer” to the development committee.
“I love that idea,” Bynum said, adding praise for Lt. Gov Pinnell as “the best Lieutenant Governor in the country”.
“But,” Bynum added, “we’re going through a planning process right now that’s actually led by a leadership committee of long-time North Tulsa leaders.”
Bynum said he believes private sector development could “have a transformative impact on the Greenwood district”. The mayor added, however, that the city has committed itself to gathering community input.
“The city controls the site,” he said. “Nothing is going to go in there that the folks of North Tulsa don’t want to go in.”
District 1 City Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper, who has been an unapologetic advocate for community voice in the re-development of the Greenwood area, felt differently about Pinnell’s comments. Hall-Harper said the Lt. Governor’s promotion of the stadium “left a bad taste in [her] mouth”.
“There is a process in place,” Councilor Hall-Harper said in an interview with The Black Wall Street Times.
The councilwoman, whose district includes the Evans-Fintube site, stressed the importance of honoring community input to help repair long-broken trust between North Tulsans and their government.
“We are under the impression that things are going to be done differently now,” she said.
“I hope that the city, and particularly TAEO, stay true to their commitment to the community in this effort.”
Campaign finance reports raise questions after Lt. Governor’s stadium comments
Lt. Governor Pinnell’s apparent endorsement of the idea of a stadium in Greenwood both sparked concerns and raised questions. At the time of his comments, four teams of developers were in the running for a contract with the city. Three of the four teams were reportedly intentional about preserving Greenwood’s sacred land for open space areas.
Only one team, according to multiple sources, included plans for building a stadium at the Evans-Fintube site.
That team, lead in part by Rose Rock Developers in Oklahoma City, has close ties to the Lt. Governor.
Campaign finance records indicate that several executives from the company have already donated thousands of dollars in total to the Lt. Governor’s 2022 campaign for re-election.
Records also indicate several of those same executives contributed similar amounts to Mayor Bynum’s re-election campaign in 2020.
While the donations themselves aren’t improper, they do little to ease community concerns; especially as comments from the state’s second highest-ranking official seem to publicly promote one particular plan.
With so much at stake in redeveloping this sacred space, community members are voicing their mounting frustration.
“I think the Lt. Governor has overstepped and needs to apologize,” said lifelong North Tulsa resident and community leader Charles Wilkes.
Wilkes said Pinnell was “discounting of what North Tulsa and the descendants and survivors of Greenwood want in Greenwood.”
“Too often we have been skipped over as if others know better than us what we want for us,” he continued. “I’m speaking up to make sure this is not one of those cases.”