Fassler Hall and Dust Bowl, a popular Tulsa beer garden and old-fashioned bowling alley, will soon get a second home in Oklahoma City's MidTown.
The proprietor, J. Elliott Nelson, successfully replicated his James McNellie's Public House in 2008 at MidTown's Plaza Court, and has been growing his brand of urban-themed pubs, eateries and entertainment venues ever since.
“In our neighborhood (Tulsa's Blue Dome district), we have six things within two blocks of each other,” Nelson explained. “The one here was a building our landlord bought, it had a bare roof, and we decided it would make a great beer hall.”
Fassler Hall opened in September 2010, just five years after Nelson opened his first McNellie's. The communal German beer hall features sausage made in house, broasted chicken, other menu items, a vast beer selection and live music. Dust Bowl opened the next year, featuring the sort of bowling alleys that hearken back to the 1960s.
Both have turned into huge draws for the growing Tulsa entertainment district, and both will be located, side by side, in a brand new 40,000-square-foot building being developed by MidTown Renaissance and designed by architect Brian Fitzsimons.
“I like finding spaces people feel comfortable with for various occasions,” Nelson said. “That's the beauty of the pub, and it's the same with the beer hall … and it has resonated with a lot of people.”
The new construction is a first for MidTown Renaissance Group led by Bob Howard, which to date has only renovated older buildings, and for Nelson, whose venues are all in restored older buildings.
“I'm so used to finding an old building and just being able to rehab; to build new, it's almost too much,” Nelson said. “I keep asking, ‘I can do whatever I want, put walls where I want?'”
The answer is “yes,” and those plans also include a 7,800-square-foot outdoor, heavily landscaped beer garden on the east side of the building. The building provides shade for the area, and with a canopy system and shop heaters, the beer garden is expected to accommodate crowds of up to 300 people throughout the year.
The building's design is influenced by the slope of the property itself. The Dust Bowl will front NW 10, which is at the lower elevation, while Fassler Hall will open up on the building's second floor — but at street level to the north — along Park Place.
Both venues will be larger than the originals in Tulsa.
“In Tulsa, it's eight lanes, and when we built it, the idea was a lot of these new bowling alleys have gone upscale, and for me, the 1970s style with pitchers of beer is what I like,” Nelson said. “It has manual scoring; it's easier to socialize if you don't have a computer prodding you to bowl.”
Accordion walls allow for the creation of two private, two-lane rooms for private parties, with a total of 12 lanes. The new 11,000-square-foot Dust Bowl also will feature pool tables, arcade games, a bar and lounge.
Lingo Construction is expected to begin work this fall, with an opening in summer, 2014.
The development of Fassler Hall and Dust Bowl coincide with a flurry of development underway in MidTown, apartments opening up nearby at 1212 N Walker, 430 NW 12, and Hadden Hall and the Guardian Garage along NW 10.
MidTown Renaissance also has drawn in new restaurants, clubs, salons and shops to the area, along with redevelopment of the Osler Building at NW 12 and Walker into the future Ambassador Hotel.
Chris Fleming, a partner in MidTown Renaissance, said he sees Fassler Hall and Dust Bowl being the next components for the growing downtown neighborhood. The building also will include 16,000 square feet of for-lease retail space.
“McNellie's and Elliott Neson have been involved in the revitalization of MidTown since its infancy,” Fleming said. “From it's opening in 2008 McNellie's has been MidTown's social epicenter. Fassler Hall and Dust Bowl should cause that epicenter to expand. These two concepts are complimentary additions to the neighborhood.”