TULSA — Temperatures may be over the century mark outside, but it's ice on the inside that's in focus as construction nears completion for the $183 million BOK Center. The center glitters like a jewel downtown as the sun bounces off a skin of 31,000 stainless steel panels and 50,000 square feet of glass. The lowest floor is being prepped for its first icing, scheduled to begin in mid-August. The new arena will be home to the Tulsa Oilers hockey team. It will also be the home of the Tulsa Talons, an arenafootball2 team. In between times, the arena will host a variety of events — 21 of them from the Sept. 6 opening, a concert by The Eagles, to March 1. Events will include: a Radio City Christmas spectacular, Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus, Celtic Thunder, Lipizzaners and the 2008 World Tour of Gymnastic Superstars. A formal ribbon cutting and community open house will be held Aug. 30, followed the next day by a multifaith celebration; both are free, exactly three years after ground was broken. The BOK Center will be a regional attraction bringing people from all over northeast Oklahoma, not only for the 120 events already booked there but "for its sheer artistic beauty,” Mayor Kathy Taylor said.”
‘Cool architecture'Ben Edwards, assistant project manager for Tulsa Vision Builders, a joint venture of Manhattan Construction Co. and Flintco, Inc., said there "is a lot of cool architecture” in the building as he waves his arm inside the main — or east — entrance which is about 80 feet high, with a floor to ceiling curving glass wall facing south. In the Tulsa lexicon it is "The Icon Wall” for the structure designed by a consortium of Matrix Architects and Planners, Inc., Odell Associates, Inc., and Cesar Pelli and Associates. Primary funding is from the 2003 Tulsa County Vision 2025 sales tax. Edwards said $3 million in private funds went into making the lower seating floor of terrazzo with mother of pearl chips to give it "a sparkly look.” Embedded in the lower floor will be mosaics with an Indian motif, still to be completed. Without the sales tax money, the floor would be sealed concrete, just like the upper — or third — seating level. The carpeted-second level is for those who have bought suites ranging in price from $40,000 to $60,000. BOK paid $11 million for naming rights and a double suite for 27. The second level has its own entrance on the south side, with private elevators and escalators.
Fancy scoreboardThe Williams Co. paid $3.4 million for the eight-sided scoreboard, measuring 33 feet high and 30 feet wide. It has a million pixels of light on three levels, Edwards said. It nests in the ceiling when not in use. A banner circling the arena has 300,000 LEDs for announcements, he said. Each of the lower-level seats is wider and has more leg room than in many arenas. On the upper level, the seats are narrower. As many as 18,041 people can be seated in the arena depending on the event, Edwards said. If attendance is light, the upper levels can be curtained off, giving an impression of a fuller house. Also, the west end can be curtained off if there is a stage event, so there are no empty seats behind the performers. Taylor said companies have already told her that the BOK Center is "fabulous for attracting new employees.” It has already had an effect because "we are seeing restaurants open up in downtown Tulsa,” she said. While the BOK Center is owned by the city of Tulsa, it will be managed by SMG, a Philadelphia company specializing in facility management at 200 locations worldwide. SMG will have 75 full-time Tulsa employees headed by John Bolton. A subsidiary will handle the basic food concession — hot dogs, popcorn and beverages. In addition, six local restaurants also will serve specialities, including Chinese, pizza and barbecue.
Workmen prepare the score board, which has been lowered nearly to the floor, and prepare the floor for being iced for the first time. BY LARRY LEVY, THE OKLAHOMAN