Fund-raising complete, work on Oklahoma Capitol Dome to begin in April

Tuesday, July 25th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Eighty-six years in the making, the Oklahoma Capitol is finally getting a dome. Gov. Frank Keating announced Tuesday that more than $20 million is in hand -- mostly from private donations -- to finance the project. Construction will begin in April. "Oklahomans stand proud and tall in the center of a grea tnation," Keating said. "Our Capitol will now stand tall and proud as a reflection of who we are, what we've accomplished and what we're going to achieve."

Officials are shooting for completing the 155-foot structure of structural steel and stone by Statehood Day, Nov. 16, 2002. Private donations will account for about 75 percent of the funding for the massive project, which will double the height of the Capitol. Oklahoma has the only Capitol in the nation that was designed to have a dome and does not have one.

Keating said the Capitol, in essence, is unfinished and that does not fit Oklahoma's image "as a can-do state." Paul B. Meyer, state architect, said the dome is expected to become a major tourist attraction because Capitol visitors will be able to go to the base of the structure and get a panoramic view of the capital city.

Ground was broken for the building in 1914 and it was completed in 1917. After 83 years, Keating said, "it is time to complete the building that is the symbol of our state." The Capitol without a dome "is a statement of our poverty," the governor said. Finishing the structure, he said, will be "a statement of our prosperity."

Officials say failure to complete the dome more than eight decades ago is tied to politics, a lack of finances and the breakout of World War I and the subsequent shortage of materials. Blake Wade, executive director of the Oklahoma Capitol Complex and Centennial Commemoration Commission, said dedication of the dome will mark the official beginning of a series of events celebrating the state's 100th birthday.

Construction will be financed with $5 million in bond money approved by the Legislature and more than $15 million in private donations, including $3.5 million from Phillips Petroleum Co. Donations of $1 million came from the Bernsen Foundation, Conoco Inc., Express Personnel Services Inc., Herman and LaDonna Meinders, the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, the SBC Foundation and the Stipe family, represented by state Sen. Gene Stipe, D-McAlester.

Contributions of $500,000 came from Dobson Communications Corp., the Helmerich Foundation, the ONEOK Foundation, the Sarkeys Foundation and the Tulsa World. Three individuals gave a total of almost $1.6 million anonymously.