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Backers of popular culture museum for Tulsa want another chance

Supporters of the Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture again are seeking a $42.5 million bond issue. They tell a House committee that the OK Pop will produce enough revenue to pay its operating costs and that the state won't have to appropriate new funds to make the bond issue's debt service payments.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Published: September 26, 2012

Backers of a proposed popular culture museum in downtown Tulsa told a legislative panel Tuesday that no additional state appropriations would be necessary to pay for the cost of a proposed $42.5 million bond issue to build the facility or to pay its annual operating expenses.

The Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture — called the OK Pop — would produce about $2 million in annual revenues to pay for its operating costs, said Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society, which would manage the facility. Revenue would come from admissions, gift shop sales, special events and revenue from its parking garage.

Blackburn said his agency would not need additional funding to pay for the estimated $2.2 million annual debt service of a proposed $42.5 million, 30-year bond issue to pay for the museum's construction. Existing annual bond payments of about $2.5 million for other projects will be paid off in about six years, he said.

If lawmakers authorize a bond issue next year, the debt service payments for the OK Pop project would start in about three years, he said. It's expected private donations would pay the debt service for the three years until his agency would take over the payments.

Legislative approval of the $42.5 million bond issue would be matched by an initial private fundraising campaign to pay for exhibits and collections, Blackburn said.

The city of Tulsa has pledged $3 million and Bank of Oklahoma has pledged a block of land valued at $2.5 million in the Brady Arts District. The private campaign has been launched with a $1 million challenge grant from the George Kaiser Family Foundation, he said.

“All the stars are aligned — the bond payments going off, our support in the private community in Tulsa,” Blackburn said. “We've got a way that we can make this thing work.”

Could be hard sell

Only a handful of the 17-member House of Representatives Appropriations and Budget Committee attended Tuesday's presentation by Blackburn and other supporters. All those present seemed to support the idea, which was first presented to lawmakers during this year's session.

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