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New BOK Center Arena Is Crown Jewel for Tulsa, Region

October 13, 2008


Open since September 2008, the new state-of-the-art, world-class BOK Center in Tulsa (OK) promises to emerge as a premiere event destination both regionally and nationally, welcoming up to half of a million visitors a year. Designed by internationally acclaimed Cesar Pelli architects, this multifunctional arena will have an estimated economic impact of $92 million per year and $5.86 million in state and local tax revenues.

This larger-than-life dream came to reality thanks to Tulsa citizens, the city’s visionary leaders, and current Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor. When she assumed office in spring 2006, the project was declared $62 million over budget – a gap that was threatening to halt Tulsa’s most promising endeavor. While escalated construction costs (caused by the devastation of hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma) for the BOK Center required immediate attention, Taylor also faced the challenge of submitting the city budget in just a ten-day frame after taking oath.

In a matter of days, the mayor and her team addressed project contractors to conduct a value analysis (through Tulsa Vision Builders) and negotiate the waiver of many professional fees. As a result, the overage was reduced from $62 to $43 million. Taylor also secured further contributions from private donors and a consensus from the County Commissioners for a release of additional public funds. Today, all of the bids have been received and executed within budget, allowing the BOK Center to be completed on time.

Together with the renovations in the adjacent Convention Center (on track to boast two ballrooms, including the largest in Oklahoma), the BOK Center is the biggest construction project in Tulsa’s history to date, topping out at $240 million.

The arena was funded by private donations and by Vision 2025, a visionary sales tax package approved by Tulsa County voters in 2003 to finance a host of key area projects ranging from parks and hospitals to higher education facilities and libraries.

Taylor continues to work hard to ensure the new BOK Center is at the heart of Tulsa’s downtown revitalization and gives way to future retail growth, river development and new housing. She has led the relocation of Tulsa city offices from an aging building next to the arena into a technologically sound, energy efficient modern facility in an adjacent part of downtown – at reduced costs and without raising taxes. At the foot of both the BOK Center and the Convention Center, city hall’s old location can now be used for hotel development to accommodate a sure-to-grow number of out-of-town visitors.

They will be coming to Tulsa for an opportunity to attend everything from political conferences to rock concerts. Under the skillful management by veteran contractor firm SMG, the arena booked and announced 27 major acts – such as the legendary Eagles, American Idol tour, Cirque du Soleil, and Celine Dion – months before the official opening. Oklahoma natives Garth Brooks and Hanson cut the ribbon before a crowd of 20,000 Tulsans at the opening ceremony on Labor Day weekend.

Home to the local football and hockey teams, the BOK Center will also pitch well for big sports, luring in NBA and NCAA games, as well as Professional Bull Riders tours. Conference USA has started the official countdown towards its 2010 men-s basketball tournament, which will be held at the facility.

BOK Center’s Unique Design:

The 19,200-seat, 565,000 square-feet, glass-paneled arena will symbolize the new kind of energy that is transforming Tulsa and will quickly become an iconic part of Tulsa’s skyline.

Crafted by Cesar Pelli, the creator of the world-famous Petronas Towers in Malaysia, the BOK Center delivers a unique look that is destined to become symbolic for Tulsa. When designing the arena, the architect and builders aimed at making as memorable an icon in Tulsa as the TransAmerican building in San Francisco or the Opera House in Sidney. That look is captured through a 60,000 square-foot-radius, sloped glass curtain wall system. In other words, the wide ribbon of glass wraps around the building at an angle. One end of that glass ribbon is cantilevered 80 feet from the main structure – an element you won’t find in any typical arena.

USArchitecture Magazine will feature the BOK Center and its Construction and Design teams in their “Top 2008 Projects.”