Tinker expanding to allow for security, growth

Published: Friday, July 23, 2021 By: Kathryn McNutt Source: The Journal Record

Tinker Air Force Base will expand to the east to encompass 220 acres of land acquired by the Oklahoma Industries Authority, officials announced Thursday, stating the expansion will enhance base security and allow for mission growth.

Tinker has been a cornerstone of Oklahoma City’s economic base since 1941, and it is vital to ensure its safety and plan for its future, said Cathy O’Connor, OIA general manager.

The new configuration will close Douglas Boulevard between SE 44th and SE 74 streets. It will bring several maintenance, technology and communications operations on the east side of Douglas Boulevard securely within the new base perimeter. O’Connor said that should happen by the end of 2022.

Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt said no businesses or residential properties will be affected by the street closure.

“Tinker is a massive employer and economic engine for the city,” Holt said. “This is simply the right thing to do.”

The realigned perimeter will allow the base to redesign its current gates, making them more efficient and safer, officials said. The new gates will prevent long backups that currently extend onto Interstate 40 and Interstate 240 during commute times, they said.

The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber has been in conversations with Tinker officials about the issue of security for some time, Chairman Sean Trauschke said.

“We always want to think ahead and plan for any concerns that might jeopardize operations. At the same time, we want to look for any opportunities that make the base attractive for new missions,” Trauschke said.

Tinker is the center of the aviation industry in Oklahoma City and a primary driver of economic diversity beyond oil and gas. The base employs more than 26,000 people and has an annual economic impact in the region of $4.8 billion, he said.

“Preserving this base, you would think is obvious and a given, but that isn’t the case everywhere,” Oklahoma County Commissioner Brian Maughan said. He called the plan a win for every entity involved.

The air base lies entirely within Oklahoma City and Oklahoma County.

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., a longtime advocate for Tinker Air Force Base, issued a statement voicing his support for the expansion.

“Tinker is vital to the Oklahoma City community and our state as a whole, creating billions of dollars in economic impact and thousands of jobs,” Inhofe said. “It should come as no surprise that Oklahoma is continuing to invest in this vital military installation so it can acquire and support new missions.”

OIA retains ownership of the 220 acres, which it acquired over time, purchasing the last parcel recently, said Harve Allen, the chamber’s public relations manager. He said it has not been determined whether Tinker may lease or purchase the property.

This story was updated on July 23 to add a detail.
 
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