Tulsa PAC Unveils New Long-Range Plan for Facility Improvements

Tulsa has a very good performing arts center, according to Executvie Director Mark Frie.

But, Frie said, "I want it to be great" -- a facility that would earn the sort of national attention Tulsa's BOK Center and Gathering Place receive. 

One possible method of achieving that greatness was unveiled at the March 25 Tulsa PAC Trust meeting, as Beck Design presented the results of its feasibility study on the renovation and expansion of the multitheater facility. 

The study incorporated input from users and patrons of the PAC that were obtained during a town hall event in September. The study was funded with the approximately $1 million the Tulsa PAC received through the Vision 2025 funding. 

The proposed renovation and expansion would add an additional 142, 000 square feet to the facility at the corner of Third Street and Cincinnati Avenue, close to doubling the PAC's current square footage. 

"Every space within the facility would be touched by this," said Don Beck of Beck Design. "The end result would be a state-of-the-art building that would set the standard for (performing arts centers in) the Midwest."

The proposed design would create an expansive, multilevel lobby area that would wrap around the building's south and west sides, with additional elevators and escalators to carry patrons to the different levels, and would contain a cafe and bar area. 

"The goal was to make it easier to find one's way through the building," Beck said. 

Seating in the Chapman Music Hall's orchestra level would be reconfigured, with additional aisles to break up the hall's current continental-style seating. The rake, or angle, of the orchestra-level floor would also be altered so that the number of seats in the hall would not change. Additional seating compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act would be added. 

A new, 550-seat multipurpose theater would be on the building's west side, and the Westby Pavilion would be relocated above the new theater as a "roof top" meeting place.

Other major changes are a new loading dock with entrances from Second Street, relocation of the LaFortune Studio black box theater and upgrading much of the facility's infrastructure, such as mechancial, electric and climate-control equipment, to bring it up to date with current technologies. 

Beck said the total price tag for the plan would be about $320 million. 

"That is a big number," he said. But this is a 42-year-old building, so we built it in a hefty amount for contingencies. Whenever you're doing a renovation, you're always going to encounter surprises."

Beck Design's plan would be done in two phases and would take about four and a half years to complete. The PAC's main theater, the Chapman Music Hall, would remain in operation throuhgout much of the proposed construction. 

Members of the PAC Trust expressed reservations at the scope and the expense of the plan. Tulsa PAC Trust President Billie Barnett asked what it would cost if, instead of renovating the existing building a completely new PAC was built on another site.

Beck said building a new facility would save about $60 million. "It would be a more efficient process because we would not be working around a working theater," he said. 

Trust member Wendy Drummond suggested it would be better to look at "what is absolutely necessary" to meet the PAC's immediate needs. 

"Maybe we should do what we have right now, then compare that to this vision," she said. 

"This is a larger and much more in-depth study than has been done in the past," Frie said. "I'm not sure this plan is the answer to what we need to do to prepare the Tulsa PAC for the next 42 years, but I do know that maintaining the status quo is not the answer. 

"This study is just the first step on what is likely going to be a very long journey," he said.