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Cain's Ballroom Has a New Neighbor: OKPOP

Matt Trotter

The long-awaited Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture has a home.

OKPOP will be at 422 N Main St. in downtown Tulsa, right across the street from the historic Cain’s Ballroom.

"We had other locations, but this was the right location that would not only bring that excitement to us, but add that special quality of history and to help make this sustainable," said Oklahoma Historical Society Executive Director Bob Blackburn.

Speaker of the Oklahoma House Jeff Hickman sponsored the 2015 bill securing $25 million in bonds for OKPOP. He said despite tough economic times, it’s time to build the museum.

"You need only look back at President Lincoln and the tough challenges he faced, and he continued building in Washington, D.C., as a sign that better days will come," Hickman said. "Our better days are still ahead of us. Good times will return."

Despite having funding, the historical society struggled to find land for OKPOP. Recently, they pursued Tulsa Development Authority–owned property at Elgin Avenue and Brady Street across from ONEOK Field.

That was after considering a Bank of Oklahoma parking lot at Archer Street and Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard.

City Councilor Blake Ewing said OKPOP’s location is a big deal, especially considering downtown development talk frustrated many Tulsans not that long ago.

"The fear of this not happening in downtown was frustrating to people, just a decade and a half later," Ewing said. "We just couldn't fathom how we could talk about something like this and it not going smack in the middle of our downtown."

Land with an estimated value of $1 million that’s currently a parking lot is being donated to the Oklahoma Historical Society for the museum. OKPOP will include a 100-space underground garage open to concertgoers.

It should open late 2019. VisitTulsa estimates 100,000 people a year will visit OKPOP.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.