Mayor G.T. Bynum and the Tulsa Performing Arts Center Trust signed an agreement creating an historic partnership that will allow for the future growth of the Tulsa Performing Arts Center (PAC) while creating an enhanced experience for PAC visitors.
Originally intended to provide a modern facility to house local, nonprofit performing arts organizations, the PAC opened its doors in March 1977. Constructed with a then unique combination of public and private funds, the Center was owned and operated by the City of Tulsa.
Beginning today, the Tulsa PAC will continue to be owned by the City of Tulsa, but under the management of the Tulsa Performing Arts Center Trust, which will be handling the day-to-day operations of the PAC moving forward.
“In the last decade, the City of Tulsa has recognized the tremendous benefit we gain for cultural assets owned by the citizens of Tulsa when we can partner with a not-for-profit entity that is focused on operating them,” Mayor G.T. Bynum said. “Gilcrease Museum and the Tulsa Zoo have both enjoyed a renaissance since adopting this management approach. We believe the Tulsa Performing Arts Center has the potential to experience a similar renewal under the management of the Tulsa Performing Arts Center Trust.”
"The management agreement between the City of Tulsa and The PAC Trust is truly a monumental moment in the life of the Performing Arts Center. This agreement will give us the financial stability and operational flexibility to be at the forefront of performing arts in our region,” Mark W. Frie, Chief Operating Officer, Tulsa Performing Arts Center Trust said. “Over the coming months and years, you will see a greater diversity in programming, a continued focus on making the arts accessible to all citizens of Tulsa through our Orbit program and a focus on an attainable long-range plan for the facility. It's my desire for the PAC to be the synergistic hub of the city where collaboration, creativity, innovation and unity happen on a daily basis.”
Public funds for building the PAC were provided by a 1973 bond issue. To encourage approval, civic leaders John H. Williams and Leta Chapman posed a challenge to Tulsa citizens: If they would vote to fund half of the total cost for a new performing arts center, Williams and Chapman would raise a matching amount in private dollars. Led by Mayor Robert J. LaFortune, Tulsa voters overwhelmingly approved the challenge and “Everyone’s Place” held its first concert on March 19, 1977, featuring the Tulsa Philharmonic and jazz great Ella Fitzgerald. Today, many arts organizations utilize the facility including Tulsa Opera, Tulsa Ballet, Tulsa Symphony, Theatre Tulsa, American Theatre Company, Theatre North, Tulsa Town Hall, Chamber Music Tulsa, Choregus Productions, Theatre Pops, Tulsa Project Theatre, Celebrity Attractions (presenting Broadway shows) and many other local, regional and national groups.
"I believe our community wants to see the PAC thrive, grow and prosper. With improvements in the facility, partnerships and collaborations, audience growth and diversity through arts, we can continue to entertain and educate and while remaining financially secure,” Billie Barnett, Tulsa Performing Arts Center Trust Chair said. “The PAC Trust takes on this task with enthusiasm and commitment so that all citizens will want to experience the Tulsa Performing Arts Center and consider it ‘Everyone’s Place’.”
The management agreement follows multiple studies recommending a management agreement as a necessary next step in creating a stronger Performing Arts Center in Tulsa. The basic structure of the management agreement would generally emulate other management agreements the City already has with SMG (BOK Center & Convention Center), University of Tulsa (Gilcrease Museum), TZMI (Tulsa Zoo), and Billy Casper Golf Management (Page Belcher and Mohawk Golf Courses), by which the PAC Trust will manage the City-owned asset for a management fee. The fee will represent baseline City operating support, based on current net operating funding. The agreement will be for a term of 25 years, subject to annual appropriations. PAC employees who were employed by the City will now be employed by the PAC Trust.
The names of people and shows that have come through the Tulsa PAC is too numerous to list, but many nationally-known superstars have graced the stage including Ella Fitzgerald, Red Skelton, Luciano Pavarotti, Itzhak Perlman, Andre Watts, Beverly Sills, Joshua Bell, Kelly Clarkson, Michael Bublé, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Botti, Cathy Rigby, Tony Bennett, Steve Martin, David Sedaris, Kelli O’Hara, Kenny Loggins, Norah Jones, Lyle Lovett, Judy Collins and more. Some of the biggest shows that have come through include the touring Broadway productions of The Book of Mormon, Wicked, Disney’s The Lion King, Cats and Jersey Boys. The all-time attendance record of 94,588 for one show was set in 1996 by the 5-week run of The Phantom of the Opera.