The new owner of Oklahoma City's massive metal Gold Dome building believes the historic structure offers similar benefits as magnetic golf bracelets, which are purported to increase blood flow and performance.
Like the bracelets, the grounded dome puts off positive electromagnetic energy, Greg Lorson said. He said he feels the energy the minute he steps inside the 27,000-square-foot dome, which was built in 1958 for Citizens State Bank, using the geodesic dome design of architect Buckminster Fuller.
“It was Fuller — an architect, philosopher, engineer, author, college professor and overall renaissance man — who coined the phrase ‘synergy,'” Lorson said.
Believing the dome is an optimum habitat, Lorson in March will relocate his professional environmental engineering firm — Total Energy & Environmental Management Co. LLC (TEEMCO) — from Edmond to 23rd and Classen. TEEMCO — which employs about 100 and serves more than 1,300 clients nationwide — helps organizations, mostly major oil and gas companies, stay in compliance with state and federal environmental regulations.
“We believe our environment needs to be protected, whether it's natural or man-made,” Lorson said. “But man's habitat is just as important as a beaver dam. We have just as much right to be on the planet as any other life-form.”
Following the ancient Chinese design principles of feng shui to enhance environmental harmony, Lorson plans to complement the dome's hanging “light clouds” and terrazzo floor with two massive salt- and freshwater aquariums positioned behind the former teller windows and what will be the world's largest salt crystal lamp and natural air purifier, with crystal mined from Pakistan.
He also plans a giant touch screen along one wall that will educate students and other visitors on careers in math and science, and raise awareness of the need to protect the environment.
“The building will become functional art,” he said.
Lorson, 56, sat down with The Oklahoman on Monday to talk about his professional and personal life. This is an edited transcript:
Q. Tell us about your roots.
A. I spent the first nine months of life in Oklahoma City — in St. Joseph's orphanage, before my adoptive parents took me home to Bartlesville, where my dad worked as a petroleum engineer for Phillips. I was a middle child. They adopted six, raised four foster children and, after 25 years of marriage, divorced, both remarried and brought six other children into the family. It was fun. Growing up, we were big enough to field our own neighborhood teams. At any given time, four or five of us were mad at two or three others. But every night, we knelt as a family to pray, hugged and kissed, and all went to bed when the youngest did. We still love each other, though we don't see one another much, except at funerals. We're spread from Oklahoma east to Boston.
Q. And your school days?
A. We were oil gypsies, moving from Bartlesville back and forth from Utah, Houston and South Carolina. My first 10 years of school, I attended 11 different schools before we settled in Bartlesville my sophomore year. I was always the new kid in the class, so I learned to get along with people — or not. I was in a lot of fights. I started working when I was 8, and was paid for three seasons by the Spartanburg (S.C.) Phillies minor league baseball team to play open positions during practices. From age 13 on, I worked for restaurants, doing everything from washing dishes, cooking and waiting tables to managing and, later, owning them. In college at OU, I was active in student government, serving as the equivalent of secretary of state to the Norman City Council. Subsequently, I was appointed to the board of Keep Norman Beautiful, which was my first view into environmental organizations, and helped form Keep OU Beautiful and the campus trolley system. Then, the campus was an urban blight. There were no flowers. It was littered and dirty, and there were only 1,100 parking spaces for 11,000 cars. Those efforts led to my involvement in Keep Oklahoma Beautiful, where I helped establish a network of recycling centers across the state, and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, which is about maximizing production and protecting the environment.
Q. Tell us about your career before TEEMCO.
A. I started working as a land man my senior year during the oil boom and, following graduation, started my own firm. But then the whole industry collapsed with the Penn Square Bank failure. Nobody was interested in leases, but people had production they wanted to sell, so I negotiated acquisitions and mergers. For 25 years, I was an investment banker and bought and ran companies, the largest of which was a nationwide shared tenant services company — H.Q. Executive Suites, which employed 1,200. Then the bottom fell out of the mortgage and real estate markets.
Q. When did you join TEEMCO?
A. Six years ago, when they were only an eight-person operation. They recruited me as executive vice president and chief operating officer, and then I bought the company three years ago. It's fun and exciting to come to work because I know what we do matters. As we grow and become more successful, the better off the planet will be.
Q. What first interested you in the Gold Dome building?
A. Initially, I was thinking about diversifying my business interests and leasing space here for a new restaurant with a new concept. But it quickly evolved into my buying the whole building. We're still exploring opening a restaurant — but based on a Houston steakhouse model — in the space once occupied by the dome's most recent Prohibition Room restaurant. Because of the property's restricted parking, we'd only be open at night.