Tulsa downtown arena's wind tunnel test

Tuesday, November 15th 2005, 10:04 am
By: News On 6

Designers of Tulsa's downtown arena are getting ready for windy weather. They're working on making the BOK Center stand up Oklahoma's wind.

News on 6 reporter Emory Bryan says the most distinctive design feature of the BOK Center is also one of its greatest engineering challenges.

A soaring glass wall has to stand up to Oklahoma's weather. The question is - how strong should it be? The arena's designers hired a Canadian firm to put the arena to the test in a wind tunnel. A model of the arena was wired with thousands of sensors that measure how wind affects each surface. Smoke showed the airflow over and around it. That helps engineers decide how strong the underlying structure needs to be.

The forecast is for a 90 mile an hour gust every 50 years, which is what the building code requires it to withstand. The plan right now is to build the arena to take a 100 mile an hour gust. Arena project manager Bart Boatright: "And when you go to 100 miles an hour, that goes to once every 500 years, so you've greatly increased your buildings ability to withstand time and pressure."

The decision comes after a wall on a downtown building came apart in what was estimated to be an 80 mile an hour gust. There's still an argument over what caused the problem, but the arena designers don't want a repeat on their project. "A tornado well exceeds those kinds of gusts and there's not much you can do, other than build a bunker, to protect yourself against a tornado."

And as that wall is being designed, the foundation of the arena started this week. Cranes are in the air, to handle the drilling for the piers of the foundation.