Bingman wants state-funded pop museum in Tulsa

Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman has introduced legislation that would provide funding for construction of the Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture, better known as OKPOP.

Senate Bill 839 would provide a $25,000,000.00 bond issue for construction of the facility. It failed to pass the Senate by one vote Monday but Bingman will seek another vote.

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.”