Hometown Hero: Justin O’Neal
Last Wednesday, Visit Oklahoma City hosted its 13th annual awards ceremony at the Will Roger’s Theater and honored local Hometown Heroes. The prestigious award is given to those who embody a passion for Oklahoma City, leadership in the industry, a collaborative spirit, and an ambassador for the destination. This year, Visit Oklahoma City honored twelve individuals and organizations that have exceedingly supported and promoted Oklahoma City tourism. Among the chosen recipients was Bricktown District Manager, Justin O’Neal.
Justin has spent his entire career focused on marketing, entertainment, and tourism. A graduate of Northeastern State University, Justin studied Mass Communication and Public Relations before moving to Nashville to work in the country music industry focusing on Public Relations and Merchandise Marketing.
Upon returning to his hometown of Muskogee, Oklahoma, Justin worked as the Marketing Director, and later Tourism Director, for the Greater Area Muskogee Chamber of Commerce and discovered his passion for Destination Marketing. Justin held a vital role in the creation of successful events such as the Okie from Muskogee 50th Anniversary and the Okie Jeep Jam, which attracted visitors from all corners of the state.
In February 2021, Justin and his wife Caitlinn moved to Oklahoma City after accepting the role of Bricktown District Manager for the Downtown Oklahoma City Partnership. As Oklahoma’s premier entertainment district, Bricktown is home to hotels, entertainment venues, attractions and restaurants, all of which thrive on the visitor economy. As the pandemic stunted travel and public gatherings, Bricktown was heavily impacted. While a challenging time to enter this role, Justin led the Bricktown Association’s charge to focus on the district’s clean, safe and welcoming efforts. The goal was for Bricktown to be ready once the visitors returned.
With that in mind for the past two years, Justin and the Bricktown Association have:
- Installed new Bricktown Canal wayfinding signage.
- Began a renovation of Bricktown Canal landscaping.
- Installed 60 new trashcans.
- Advocated for the City to lower the juvenile curfew from 11 p.m. to 9 p.m.
- Advocated for the City to install fourteen new streetlights along Sheridan Avenue.
- Expedited streetlight outage repair with OG&E.
- Launched a community police focused OKCPD safety patrol.
- Hosted the annual Brick-or-Treat event.
- Launched innovative marketing, promotion and advertising of the district.
Though safe and clean initiatives were new challenges in Justin’s tourism career, he embraced them with an understanding of how safe and clean impacts the visitor experience.
“It takes a variety of strong, collaborative partners to make Oklahoma City a first-class destination,” said Visit Oklahoma City President Zac Craig at the awards ceremony. “These individuals and organizations do great work to promote OKC as a world-class tourism and convention destination.”
While only a couple of years in his role, Justin has faced the difficulties of an entertainment district post-pandemic, has worked with community leaders and stakeholders, and has overseen projects to ensure Bricktown continues to be Oklahoma’s premier entertainment district.