Funding sought for Tulsa pop museum

As the deadline for lawmakers to submit bills for the 2013 legislative session nears, Bob Blackburn, executive director for the Oklahoma Historical Society, pledges to seek funding again for the OK Pop Museum in Tulsa.
BY MEGAN ROLLAND mrolland@opubco.com Published: December 18, 2012

Blackburn said that debt will be paid off in 2019, at which time that $2.5 million can be used to make debt-payments for the new OK Pop Museum with some money left over for exhibits.

“All we need is the vehicle to sell the bond issue,” Blackburn said.

Blackburn said there will be a three-year overlap between when the History Center must start making payments on the new debt and before the old debt is paid off.

He said during that time, private donors and other revenue streams will be used to close the funding gap.

“The city of Tulsa has pledged $3 million that could be a possibility of filling that gap,” Blackburn said.

“We think that's somewhere around $6.6 million based on estimates right now.”

Anderson said keeping the payments the same, but for a new project is the same as new debt.

“We do a bond issue with the idea of we're going to build something, pay it off and then the investment ends,” Anderson said. “This would obviously be extending that with a new project.”

The project

The Bank of Oklahoma has donated a parking lot in the Brady Arts District that would be the site of the 75,000 square foot building that will be four stories tall.

The gift was made on the condition that the state also build a 650 space parking garage on the majority of the lot and dedicate 300 of those spaces to Bank of Oklahoma employees during working hours, forever.

Jeff Moore, project director of OK Pop, said the garage will cost about $10 million to construct and the value of the land was about $2.6 million when the donation was first made.

Blackburn said the revenue from the remaining parking spaces in the garage and all the parking spaces during evenings and weekends would help support the operations of the museum.

“We have a good solid business plan; $2.1 million a year with Jeff's staff, with utilities, with housekeeping, maintenance, all of that,” Blackburn said.

“We have a conservative business plan to generate that. Now we'll need a little endowment … to help a little bit.”

He said they need a modest $3 million endowment to help with operations, but after that the museum should be self-funding. The museum would be opened in late 2016 or early 2017.

Anderson suggested the Historical Society take the project to a vote of the people.

“I have another alternative and that is to do what the state constitution requires and submit it to a vote of the people,” Anderson said.

They don't have to involve the Legislature to authorize new debt for this project.”