Armory Restoration Costing More Money

Tuesday, October 23rd 2007, 9:42 pm
By: News On 6

After coming close to being torn down, an historic building is about to get new life. But, Tulsa's old National Guard Armory has sparked a new dispute on the fairgrounds. A News On 6 Investigation uncovers that new life is costing the Tulsa County Fair Board some big bucks. The News On 6's Terry Hood reports Matrix Architects and Engineers created the plans for the big changes coming to the armory.

When the armory was finished in 1941, it was a rock-solid example of the work FDR's Works Progress Administration could do. But, after being abandoned by the National Guard, it was about to be torn down in 1998, when a public outcry saved it.

The plan now is to make it better than it was when it was new. Vision 2025 money has already paid for a new roof. Four-to-Fix the County funds will add a kitchen and convert it into a banquet center. And, that's where the trouble started.

Matrix says it deserves only part of the blame for delivering the plans three and a half months late.

“This time there was an abundant amount of time used up in rethinking what the criteria should be,” said Steve Alter, President of Matrix Architecture.

In spite of the delay, the Tulsa County Fair Board paid Matrix more than $300,000 for the plans. The board then used them to begin the construction process. But, then in August, the board changed its mind.

“A lot of projects are dependent on the armory being completed in a timely manner,” said fair board member, Fred Perry.

Even though it would cause another delay, the Tulsa County Fair Board voted to scrap the plans and start over with another company.

Tulsa County Commissioner and Tulsa County Fair Board member Fred Perry says the budget was the biggest reason.
“Those plans put us over budget. And so, basically, we had to go back to the drawing boards,” said fair board member Fred Perry.

That doesn't sit well with Steve Alter, the former president of Matrix. He says the Tulsa County Fair Board knew the plans were about $1 million over budget.

“All we put in the design and the documents were exactly the criteria of the owner and the user. And, we told them the scope that was in there was over,” said Steve Alter of Matrix Architecture.

The Tulsa County Fair Board could have asked the company to fix the problem. Last year, Matrix changed its plans for the new downtown arena, after the cost of building materials pushed construction bids $32 million over budget. And, when construction bids for the fairgrounds' new Central Park Hall came in too high last year, Matrix found a way to fix the problem.

But, the Tulsa County Fair Board didn't ask Matrix to change its plans for the armory. Instead, it voted to start from scratch, paying a different company $315,000 for a new set of plans.

Steve Alter is no longer the president of Matrix Architects and Engineers. He was one of the people who founded the company back in the 1980's. While The News On 6 was working on this story, Matrix announced that he'd left the firm, but wouldn't say why.

The Tulsa County Fair Board, meanwhile, is still waiting for the new set of plans for the armory project.

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