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Children's museum group ends effort to save Oklahoma City's Stage Center as building goes up for sale

Stage Center is going up for sale as an organization that formed in January to acquire and turn the closed theater into a children's museum decided to move on because the project couldn't be funded.
by Steve Lackmeyer Modified: July 10, 2012 at 10:21 pm •  Published: July 10, 2012

Stage Center is going up for sale as an organization that formed in January to acquire and turn the closed theater into a children's museum decided to move on because the project couldn't be funded.

The Oklahoma City Community Foundation recently retained Mark Beffort and Grubb&Ellis/Levy Beffort to list the theater, 400 W California Ave., for sale to a development community already showing signs it is eager to submit bids.

Tracey Zeeck, who led the effort to save the theater, along with architect Farooq Karim, responded with a letter sent to supporters announcing the effort to establish a children's museum would continue — but not at the darkened Stage Center.

“Our group is deciding who is on the ‘save Stage Center team' and who is on the ‘build a children's museum' team,” Zeeck said. “Everyone is kind of on both, but we want to have folks to feel free to work on what they want.”

The issue, Zeeck said, continues to be money.

“It's finding someone to be an anchor, to be the naming rights sponsor,” she said. “It was worth trying. If we hadn't, we always would have wondered what if we had? We took our shot. We've gone to the biggest names with the most reason to do this, and if it wasn't for them to do, it probably won't be anyone's deal.”

The theater, designed by John Johansen, is internationally recognized architecture and is featured in architectural textbooks.

The theater opened in 1970 and was part of the I.M. Pei Plan that sought to rebuild downtown in the 1960s and 1970s.

The building has been closed since floodwaters in June 2010 devastated the theater. Arts agencies permanently relocated, the building was stripped by copper thieves, and building ownership reverted from the Arts Council of Oklahoma City to the Oklahoma City Community Foundation.

The foundation agreed to let the Central Oklahoma Chapter of the American Institute of Architects issue a request for proposals, which drew a response from the children's museum group.

That response, however, did not come with the required financing and was rejected by the foundation.

Zeeck said her effort ended after she was convinced no suitors could be found and that the property was drawing significant interest from developers.

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by Steve Lackmeyer
Business Reporter
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter and columnist who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's Metropolitan...
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Our group is deciding who is on the ‘save Stage Center team' and who is on the ‘build a children's museum' team.”

Tracey Zeeck

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