Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

AICCM May Face Dry Hole When Seeking More Donations

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

AICCM May Face Dry Hole When Seeking More Donations

Article excerpt

OKLAHOMA CITY - The chances of finding a corporate sponsor to help fund ongoing operations at the planned American Indian Cultural Center and Museum don't look good, city officials said.

Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits President and CEO Marnie Taylor has a more optimistic, albeit mixed, outlook. Philanthropic support has remained strong in central Oklahoma, she said, even though a downturn in the oil and gas industry has put a damper on the expansion of corporate gift giving. Current commitments are being fulfilled; new project concepts aren't faring as well.

However, market forces could fix that problem by the time City Hall decides what to do with the troubled cultural center project. A special City Council committee concluded Tuesday the AICCM is still at least two years away from construction completion, and another year will be needed for installing Smithsonian Institution-quality exhibits.

Read complete coverage of the AICCM

In the meantime, council members and staff are trying to figure out how to cover a $15 million budget gap to complete the center and whether the $170 million project will work as originally envisioned. Consulting firm ConsultEcon Inc. Vice President Robert Brais told committee members that even if the AICCM is finished, in his experience most publicly operated culture centers and museums struggle to fully fund operations on their own. He referred to the difference between red ink and a balanced ledger as the taxpayer tolerance level.

City Manager Jim Couch said he doubted whether city officials will be able to identify enough private sponsors to find a comfortable tolerance level, even if a nonprofit group similar to the foundation that manages the city-owned Myriad Botanical Gardens is put in place. He said the philanthropic well has been tapped dry.

"We've already tapped the private sector for $25 (million) to $30 million to help us complete the project," Couch said. "If you've already hit them up for capital costs, are you going to hit them up again for operational costs? …

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