Years-long planning for a $2.1 million new Hatbox event building will hopefully come to fruition this summer, said Muskogee Parks and Recreation Director Mark Wilkerson.
"We’ve been talking about doing something for about four or five years or longer," Wilkerson said. "It’s been long talked about and slow in coming, but we’re getting close."
The building, whose construction has been funded by the City of Muskogee Foundation, will better accommodate Hatbox' chief indoor event, the annual livestock show, Wilkerson said. From there, Parks and Recreation hopes the new space will attract even more events.
"This building will have heat and air conditioning where the other buildings don’t, and there will be new restrooms, office and storage and all the other things that help us make events happen out there," Wilkerson said. "It’s going to really enhance and make Hatbox events opened up to possibilities for all kinds of potential events, so we’re very excited about it."
The Muskogee Regional Junior Livestock show draws hundreds of students and their families each year to compete with their animals. The show moved to Hatbox from the Muskogee Fairgrounds in 2018, when the existing hangars at Hatbox were converted to multipurpose buildings to host the event. Neither of the hangars, however, contain air conditioning or heat.
"What’s driven the development of Hatbox has been the livestock event, so the new building already helps accommodate that," Wilkerson said. "With the new building it’ll help tremendously. Then we’ll be able to go after other events that will help with our tourism."
The contractor, Williams Contracting, began work on the complex in December, Wilkerson said. They are working on the foundation of the new building.
"They’re doing the dirt work and ground work," Wilkerson said. "They had to demo some existing concrete and asphalt, things like that."
Wilkerson said seeing the City of Muskogee Foundation — and by extension, the community — step behind the effort has been encouraging.
"It’s not just because the parks department has asked for it, it’s something the community has wanted it as well," Wilkerson said. "We’re very pleased and excited that we have the support."