By Van Mitchell
The Norman Transcript
GUTHRIE — Prior to the Oct. 15 Guthrie City Council meeting professors and students from the University of Oklahoma’s College of Architecture and the departments of Regional and City Planning and Landscape Architecture discussed a study it conducted about the recent Mumford & Sons Gentlemen of The Road Stopover and what Guthrie could do to become more of an arts and events destination.
Tom Woodfin, director of landscape architecture in the College of Architecture at OU, said the students did a thorough study and it showed that city leaders and community volunteers helped make the concert weekend that attracted more than 30,000 people to Guthrie a success.
“Guthrie has a resilient group of volunteers and leadership,” Woodfin said. “All of those players were able to pull the Gentlemen of the Road tour together, which was not an easy thing. You should congratulate yourselves.”
Megan Underwood, an OU student, said her group conducted a survey of more than 500 people during the two-day period of the concert weekend.
The survey showed that 61 percent of the concert attendees came within a 100 mile-radius of Guthrie and 27 percent came from a 300-mile radius. Sixty-five percent of attendees were from Oklahoma and 35 percent were from out of state.
The survey showed that 96 percent of all surveyed said they would visit Guthrie again for events and 53 percent said they would like to see more outdoor events including food festivals, music concerts, art shows and beer gardens.
Woodfin said the survey also found that the concert had an age demographic of 18 to 34 year olds that attended two to six concerts a year.
“You have a demographic of 18 to 34 year olds that go to two to six concerts a year and 88 percent of them came within 300 miles,” Woodfin said. “That is a goldmine and those are folks that you want to bring back.”
The OU students also gave council members ideas on how to improve the downtown area to make it more attractive for visitors.
Portia Owens told council members one option for improvements would be the addition of a parklet.
A parklet is a small space serving as an extension of the sidewalk to provide amenities and green space for people using the street. It is typically the size of several parking spaces. Parklets typically extend out from the sidewalk at the level of the sidewalk to the width of the adjacent parking space, though some have been built at the level of the street with access from the sidewalk.
Parklets are intended for people. Parklets offer a place to stop, to sit and to rest while taking in the activities of the street. In instances where a parklet is not intended to accommodate people, it may provide greenery, art or some other visual amenity. A parklet may accommodate bicycle parking within it, or bicycle parking may be associated with it.
The students suggested that a parklet could be placed in locations such as in front of the Pollard Theater as a way to promote the theater’s upcoming productions and as a social gathering point for different events around town.
“A parklet in Guthrie would really help create an entertainment district downtown,” Owens said. “We thought it could really foster a sense of community with the people to put together a project that is really unique.”
Council members also were given a proposal to create an outdoor and covered venue in the Harrison Square area on Harrison Avenue between First and Second streets.
The venue could include a farmer’s market, outdoor stage for concerts and a park area. The venue’s roof would be covered with solar panels to create power for the site.
Woodfin said Guthrie has the pieces in place to make the community an event and entertainment destination.
“If you are going to continue and make yourself a regional musical destination you have all the pieces and players in place,” Woodfin said. “You just have to work together to make it happen.”
Guthrie Mayor Mark Spradlin praised the students for their presentation.
“That is a great job,” Spradlin said. “You have given us some great ideas and I think we will go with some of them.”
The Guthrie City Council gave approval Tuesday night for the city manager to form a steering committee to craft ideas on how the city should spend sales tax revenue from the recent Mumford & Sons Gentlemen of Road Stopover concert to promote Guthrie as an arts and events destination.
Guthrie City Manager Sereniah Breland said the city won’t know what the sales tax revenue will be until Nov. 10.
“In the meantime I am asking the council that we develop a steering committee made up of members of our community to help guide us into our downtown improvements,” she said.
Breland said the steering committee would make recommendations and send them to the City Council for consideration.