Since Tulsa Community College had no sports teams to grab consumer hearts, university leaders sought their allegiance through the arts.
The resulting VanTrease Performing Arts Center for Education provided an eye-catching, 100,000-square-foot anchor for TCC's south campus, a new home for a Tulsa orchestral group, and a magnet now hosting more than 65,000 visitors each year.
Outside events account for more than 30 percent of its usage, from Tulsa Rotary Club award ceremonies and Tulsa Cerebral Palsy Association fundraisers to Signature Symphony concerts and some touring performances.
"The college has always looked at this as a marketing entity," said Kelly Clark, the university's dean of performing arts. "We don't have some of the more traditional ways to get the community involved with the campus. PACE has a unique ability to get the community involved."
Clark also credits the 1,500-seat PACE, as it's commonly known, with a major role in tripling the size of her department.
"I've been with TCC and this building since just about when construction began," she said. "There's always things you'd like to change, but I love this facility."
Two construction phases made PACE the icon it's become, providing not only a venue that could host about 80 percent of Broadway shows, but key educational tools that compete with the region's best - as performers and judges from 13 different states exclaimed after attending a Kennedy Center festival there two years ago.
"They were all amazed, not just with the fact that this facility was in Tulsa, Okla., but that it existed on a community college campus," Clark said. "The students have the opportunity to learn hands-on in facilities that are in my opinion second to none. …