Initial funding for a proposed Honors Plaza at Red Robertson Field has been approved by the Miami City Council.

MIAMI – The vision of an Honors Plaza at Red Robertson Field will soon be realized. The plaza will sit on the south end of the stadium near the Student Activity Center on the NEO A&M College campus, to complete the stadium and honor significant Miami and NEO sports figures.

Miami’s City Council approved $180,500 for Phase I of the project, with $256,380 projected to be available for the plaza project by the end of the current fiscal year ending June 30, 2018. Funding comes from collections of the $.65 cent city sales tax approved for the Stadium or Streets Projects.

“We hope that’s an upper-end estimate. We hope that we the City and also NEO might be able to help with some in-kind support that would bring that cost down,” Miami’s City Manager Dean Kruithof said.

The approval funds an agreement with Architects in Partnership of Norman for the development and design of the conceptualized plan for the plaza to include an honor wall, paved circulation, patio, veterans’ flag plaza, and team and individual monuments to be constructed in phases.

The projected total expense for the entire honors plaza is budgeted at $475,000.

A proposed timeline is scheduled to complete the Honors Plaza by September in time to recognize Steve Owens’ 1969 Heisman Trophy award while playing for the University of Oklahoma. Owens went on to play in the NFL for the Detroit Lions in 1970.

Loren Everett “Steve” Owens was born in Gore, Oklahoma, but grew up in Miami where he got his start in football in the Pop Warner league.

A 6-foot tall bronze statue will be placed in the plaza replicating the late Miami artist Nick Calcagno’s larger sculpture of Owens dedicated in September of 2006 and located on the east side of the Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman.

“I can also tell you the down payment on the statue has been made, so the statue has been ordered,” Kruithof said.

Donations have been received and are being accepted toward the cost of the statue, some from Miami High School Class of 1975. Owens was a member of the 1966 MHS class.

Owens ran for an impressive 4,041 yards and set an Oklahoma record with 57 rushing touchdowns for the Sooners from 1967-69. He also holds Oklahoma’s records for most carries in a game (55), season (393) and career (958) and 100-yard rushing games in a career (23).

The vote was not unanimously cast in support of the Honors Plaza with Councilwoman Vicki Lewis voting against the contract’s approval.

In another agenda item discussion, Kruithof and Mayor Rudy Schultz reported on the recent FERC scoping meetings held last week for public input regarding GRDA’s relicense proposal for the operation of the Pensacola Project 1494-438.

“There are some elements we actually complimented GRDA on, believe it or not, we’re not always against GRDA. There’s a lot of things being done that have, and could, potentially benefit Miami,” Kruithof said. “There are a lot of things they have started doing like the Adaptive Storm Management Program that we think has helped quite a bit. Those are just toddler steps, there are a lot of other things that have to be done.”

Kruithof reiterated other issues from his statement read at the scoping meetings. He included the City of Miami’s request for FERC to require GRDA to undertake a full and comprehensive flood routing study for the entire watershed. The City is asking that the study include the Neosho, Spring, and Elk rivers and identify all the remaining flooding easements GRDA needs to acquire.

Infrastructure improvements should also be included to allow Miami to avoid damage and business interruptions during floods, including raising Highways 10 and 125 and adding levies to protect the NEO A&M College Campus, according to Kruithof.

The City is also asking for an archeological and cultural study in support of local tribal governments’ request as “tribal history is also Miami’s history,” Kruithof said.

The City also claims a comprehensive environmental study is needed that includes an analysis of project operations on water quality and contamination of sediments that could be a risk to the health and safety of the community.

In his commentary, Kruithof asked for a study of the socioeconomic effect of the Pensacola Project and frequent and prolonged flooding on Miami and the surrounding area.

“We do not dispute the overall economic benefit of GRDA on northeast Oklahoma and the other communities it serves with wholesale power,” he said. “But as the only municipality upstream of the dam, the effects of frequent flooding is difficult to overcome as it relates to economic and community development efforts. As a result, we have not shared the same net economic benefit as other GRDA communities.”

Kruithof made the argument that electric rates would not increase as suggested by GRDA if these license conditions were imposed.

“As an example, three years ago, the City of Miami suggested eliminating rule curve regulations, which would allow GRDA to generate additional power to be sold at peak rates on the open market, and using this additional revenue to acquire easements without the need for rate increases,” he said in his commentary.

“The end result would be a financial wash for GRDA; the increased power revenue would be used to obtain the easements that should have been purchased 80 years ago, and allow Grand Lake to be maintained at a high level on a year-round basis. A win-win solution for all. This exact proposal may not be feasible, but a strong look at developmental resources is needed to see if a similar opportunity may be available.”

The council approved $3,000 toward Capitol Ventures Government Relations, LLC for work towards these goals. These efforts included working with Miami representatives, area stakeholders and GRDA in securing long-term agreements to sustain current release notifications.

Councilman Neal Johnson voted against approval of the expenditure.

In his statement, Kruithof vowed to work with GRDA and FERC and to take whatever steps are necessary to protect the community from the impact of flooding.

“This is the World Series,” Kruithof said to put the issue’s importance in perspective.

Capitol Ventures Government Relations, LLC’s Stuart McCalman has been working with Miami and Congressional stakeholders on submission for FY18 Water Resources Development Act language to expand the scope of the currently authorized ACE study. Weekly working group conference calls are conducted to identify the path forward related to relicensing and related issues relevant to Miami and other stakeholders.

They have also been working with the Miami Tribe’s federal representative on behalf of the City of Miami to secure support/participation of Sen. Jim Inhofe on related federal issues and secure a path forward with Congressional stakeholders to obtain needed federal monies to allow for infrastructure improvements for flood remediation efforts and associated economic development.

“There are a lot of different moving parts, and a lot of these parts are not only part of the FERC process but they’re going to be involved with the Corps of Engineers, we’re going to be involved with Congress, and it becomes a daunting process,” Kruithof said. "It’s a major, major project underway.”

Comments may still be made to FERC on the GRDA’s proposed relicense until Mar. 13 by e-filing. The Miami Public Library staff is available to help anyone who may need assistance, according to Kruithof.

In other business, Mabel Dowler’s appointment was renewed to the Miami Library Board, and Stacey Satterwhite’s reappointment to the Miami Community Facilities Authority were both approved by the council.

A scriveners error was corrected within the City of Miami’s newly adopted electric service rate schedule. The Industrial kWh rates for 1 to 300,000 and all over 300,000 kWh charges in the table were formatted with only 2 places to the right of the decimal in the worksheet when they should have been formatted 4 places to the right, David Rountree Miami's Public Utility Analyst explained. The industrial rate change will go into effect April of 2018.

Melinda Stotts is the associate editor of the Miami News-Record. She can be emailed at or followed on Twitter @MelindaStotts1.