Updated: Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman has introduced legislation to provide funding construction for the Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture, better known as OKPOP. Senate Bill 839 provides a $25 million bond issue for construction of the facility, which will be self-sustaining under a comprehensive business plan.
The Senate Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget approved the OKPOP legislation Tuesday afternoon by a vote of 27 to 13.
Bingman said with historically low interest rates, the state has a rare opportunity to build a Smithsonian-quality museum under a business plan that will require no new ongoing funding from the state.
“The Oklahoma Historical Society has a record of achievement in building self-sustaining facilities like the Oklahoma History Center and the Route 66 Museum in Clinton,” said Bingman, R-Sapulpa. “They have spent years developing a credible business plan for OKPOP, which will be a celebration of Oklahoma culture and a source of pride for our state. For years, the completion of our History Center has been upheld as an example of efficiency for such projects. Now we have an opportunity to apply that same efficiency to the construction and development of a new museum that will not only celebrate our story but have a positive economic impact.”
Under the proposal, state-appropriated funds that are currently being used to retire bond debt for the Historical Society facility will remain in the Historical Society’s budget and be directed to OKPOP. Those bonds will be retired in 2018.
Land for the facility has been donated, and an estimated $10 million in exhibits and collections will also be donated, rather than purchased. The Historical Society has already secured prominent collections from figures such as Will Rogers, Bob Wills and Garth Brooks, among numerous others.
In addition, the facility will include a revenue-generating parking garage, and employ a plan for event and facility rental similar to that of the History Center. Bingman said that the Historical Society’s realistic plan to build a world-class, self-sustaining center for cultural education and economic development deserves the support of the Legislature.
“This proposal gives the Legislature an opportunity to show how projects like this ought to be done – in a fiscally responsible way with a credible, sensible plan,” he said. “This is not a pie in the sky, but is instead the end product of years of careful planning, research, and effort to secure important historical collections. This is a plan worthy of our support.”
The bill is scheduled to be heard at Tuesday’s meeting of the Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget, at 3 p.m., in room 535 at the state Capitol. Click here for more information and a letter of support you can send to legislators.
Should this museum be built; it will be the first Oklahoma funded, Historical Society operated facility in Tulsa in state history.
Jeff Moore, OKPOP project director, asserted to media that if financing isn’t provided this year, artists who have said they will donate various items may decide to donate those materials to other established museums outside of the state.
“We lose a huge opportunity,” Moore told the Tulsa World. “In some ways, it is a once in a lifetime.”
“We are delighted to get a sizable victory today,” Tulsa Regional Chamber President and CEO Mike Neal told the Tulsa World. “This is obviously the first of several steps. We think it sends a very positive message, a strong message of support. There is still a lot of work to be done. We consider this really a positive, great start.”
An audio interview by the Oklahoma Senate media office Tuesday with Dr. Bob Blackburn, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Historical Society on the OKPOP museum is available online by clicking here.