A historic collection of musician Leon Russell artifacts provided
the foundation Tuesday for Tulsa and Oklahoma Historical Society
leaders to make a $42.5 million legislative plea toward building
Tulsa's first state-supported museum.
Russell himself joined Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett, historical
society Executive Director Bob Blackburn, state Senate President Pro
Tem Brian Bingman and others Tuesday afternoon backing construction
of the four-story Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture in downtown
While donations and fundraising efforts have given the society
enough cash to start the project, Blackburn said the real effort
hinges on winning a $42.5 million bond issue this year. That amount
equals the projected construction cost of the 75,000-square-foot
museum and 650-space parking garage on a Brady Arts District city
block donated by BOK Financial, parent of Bank of Oklahoma.
"If we don't get it this year, it probably will not happen,"
Blackburn said after the press conference at the Arts and Humanities
Council of Tulsa's new Hardesty Arts Center.
Blackburn said the BOK land donation, $3 million pledged by the
city of Tulsa, and other gifts to OKPOP depend on winning state bond
approval this session.
"My board of directors has invested probably half a million
dollars in this already," Blackburn said. "The (George) Kaiser
(Family) Foundation has invested a couple hundred thousand dollars
in this. BOK is holding off on developing that land. The city of
Tulsa could easily use $3 million elsewhere. This is probably the
last year we have an opportunity to do this, while bond rates are
historically low. This is it."
The bond issue represents just the start of the funding needs,
"On top of that we're estimating probably another $5 million to
$7 million for the exhibits," he said.
Using a bond issue would allow the historical society to go
forward without tapping state general revenue funds. Blackburn said
the OKPOP museum would employ a business model used successfully on
three other OHS museums.
"We will raise the money, use what we have in the pledges, to
make the first payments to get started," he said. "By the time it's
open, we'll start making the payments out of the historical
society's base appropriations."
Blackburn said that sets OKPOP apart from other bond requests
circulating before the Legislature, dispelling naysayer doubts that
any such move could make it through the state Capitol this year. …