Renown architect unveils Tulsa arena plans

Tuesday, February 15th 2005, 6:39 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- Architect Cesar Pelli showed off the final schematic design of Tulsa's new downtown arena Tuesday, saying the swirling creation captures the optimism and dynamism of a city confident in its future.

The $141-million arena isn't scheduled for completion until late 2007, but the renowned architect was already brimming with excitement at the thought of opening day.

"I cannot wait until this building is open and full of people," Pelli said, joyfully clasping his hands together shortly before scale versions of the arena went on display at the Tulsa Convention Center.

Pelli unveiled his initial design in September, but the schematics show in detail how the arena bowl will accommodate basketball and hockey games, concerts and other events. The design team will now work on construction details, with groundbreaking set for July.

The arena's walls rise in protruding futuristic peaks, circling and overlapping like waves, or what Pelli called "a vortex of energy."

He said the design reflects Tulsa's confidence and progressiveness in trying to revive a downtown suffering from an economic slump.

"It (Tulsa) really wants to get going," the architect said.

With the planned entry a wall of glass, scale versions of the building will be tested in a wind tunnel to ensure construction can withstand the fiercest storms, members of the design team said.

"I have no worries," said Pelli, the architect of the world's tallest buildings, the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

In the next phase, designers will explore materials for the arena's exterior. Pelli likes the idea of zinc panels, which will give the building a soft metallic glow.

Funds for the 18,000-seat arena will come largely from a one-cent sales tax increase, approved as part of the county's Vision 2025 package. But Mayor Bill LaFortune said officials are looking to raise $20 million to $40 million in private funds to pay for enhancements.

The city has had conversations with "two or three entities" that may be interested in buying naming rights to the arena, he said. Seat and suite sales also provide funding opportunities.

Demolition of buildings has begun at the site downtown, just north of the federal courthouse.

LaFortune stressed that the arena will be a place the entire community can use, "not just a facility for those who can afford $95 tickets" to special events.

Pelli has designed performing arts centers in Charlotte, N.C., and Cincinnati and the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, but this is the first arena for the Argentine native.

Many people will come to Tulsa to see it for that reason alone, LaFortune said.

"It is not just an arena," he said. "It will be a work of art."