It has been home to Tulsa's performing arts since 1977. The Performing Arts Center is owned and operated by the City of Tulsa. The city's cultural groups have first use of the space, which also books touring shows, and other presentations. In recent years, the PAC calendar has been filling up fast, complicating schedules and preventing desirable bookings. That's when management began discussing the first PAC expansion in its 22-year history. "Even with the four performing spaces we had, we quickly determined that once we put a pencil and paper to it that we needed to expand, said John Scott, PAC Manager.
The third penny sales tax extension funded a 10,000 square foot expansion on the west side of the John H. Williams theatre. The space houses a large reception room, which looks onto Williams Green. Also included are a new rehearsal and performance hall, more restrooms, and a new entryway from the south. Scott says the expansion solves some challenges for now, but there's still need for an intermediate-sized theatre.
"We don't have anything in between. So if someone comes to us with a need for an audience size from 12-1400, we would have to turn him or her away. That is a need we can't address directly," he said. The answer may lie across the street.
In 1994, with the idea there could eventually be need for more space, the PAC Trust bought the parking lot just east of the theatre. There are no formal design or construction plans, but the Trust recently talked with local arts groups about the possibility of a new theatre. "They've been asked informally what their foreseeable use of such a facility might be, and so far have given very positive responses," said Scott.
The expansion also honors three Tulsa's who drove the plan to build the PAC, and provided years of service to the arts. Mayor Susan Savage announced Monday that the reception hall will be named in honor of Kathleen P. Westby. The new rehearsal hall will be named for former Mayor Robert J. LaFortune. And the PAC's Studio Two theatre will be renamed for attorney Charles Norman. "It's an amazing thing. The hours I spent. I just had no idea I'd get an honor like this to back it up," Westby said. Lafortune, a former Tulsa mayor said," It's a nicety, I guess, of being on the edge of all these things I have been, but it's nice to be recognized. I'm very proud of that." Upon hearing of the honor, Norman said, "It's very gratifying and very thoughtful of the mayor and the city to honor us in that way."
The honorees were treated to a tour of the spaces named for them. They are looking back and looking forward to the next act for the Tulsa Performing Arts Center.