New Seats at McMahon auditorium

Seats at McMahon Auditorium stretch back toward the balcony, highlighting the interior of the noted city landmark. Funding in the 2020 Capital Improvements Program would help fund renovations intended to modernize the facility, to include upgrades to the HVAC system; replacement of seats and flooring; and an elevator to help all visitors reach the balcony.

The work at McMahon Memorial Auditorium is a “work in progress” and it’s time to take the next step, auditorium authority members said.

That work can be funded through the 2020 Capital Improvements Program.

That board has outlined a multi-phase, $3.1 million project to complete upgrades of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. As long as long as that work is being done (it requires removal of seats and flooring), authority members are looking at additional upgrades to replace seating, flooring and carpeting, as well as increasing handicapped accessibility to the balcony.

“The entire building has to be restructured, reconstructed to allow for newer technology for heating and air conditioning. That’s why it’s such a large number,” McMahon Auditorium Authority President David Torbert said, of price of the HVAC upgrade.

Torbert said the work fits into the authority’s plan to keep the historic building as a showcase, more than 60 years after what was a state-of-the-art facility opened in 1954.

The authority already has coordinated other upgrades, courtesy of funding provided by the McMahon Foundation (like the auditorium, that foundation links directly to Louise and Eugene McMahon) and the City of Lawton.

Torbert said modifications funded by McMahon Foundation total $700,000 in the last two years, and have been focused on technical, sound, lighting and infrastructure. The City of Lawton also has used multiple funding sources in recent years to make foundation repairs and do drainage work. McMahon and the city helped make handicapped-accessibility modifications in the building, to include work on seats. The city has funded energy-savings modifications to the building, including work on its foyer, and installed new parking lot lighting.

It’s time to take the next step, through a series of upgrades that will support performances in the auditorium.

“The auditorium is almost 65 years old. It’s actually in really, really good condition,” Torbert said. “Now, we have a modern state-of-the-art facility for presentation purposes, but some of the structural-related items need to be replaced, such as the heating and air conditioning.”

Down the line, additional work will include adding an elevator on the east side of the lobby to allow easier access to the balcony; re-insulating pipes in the basement; and repairing a collapsed sewer line in the women’s downstairs restroom. Torbert said the work will preserve as much as the building’s art deco style as possible.

He and authority members believe the projects are important to preserve and maintain a key asset, which provides a venue for events ranging from philharmonic orchestra performances, to plays, to military graduations.

“Lawton needs a venue for the performing arts, as well as an events center. People need to be able to gather for various things,” he said. “If we are able to get the heating and AC system done, and replace seating, this auditorium will be in really, really good shape for the future, and can be enjoyed by everyone.”

Lawton-Fort Sill Regional Airport

Future use also is prompting what ultimately will be a complete renovation of the terminal at Lawton-Fort Sill Regional Airport, a project totaling more than $13 million.

Those renovations will be a multi-phased project that will transform and modernize the terminal, starting with a project to convert the baggage claim area into the carousel system typical in airports across the country, while also adding a temporary secured passenger holding room (to be used until a permanent holding room is built in a later stage). That $3.8 million phase, already awarded to Jet Commercial Construction, is set to begin by month’s end, said Airport Director Barbara McNally.

The $2 million identified in the 2020 CIP will actually become part of the overall funding equation that is matching local money with federal money to provide more bang for the buck.

Last year, the airport’s governing body approved a plan for a general obligation bond program that will provide up to $13 million toward the renovation and related costs. It’s money that is available should the airport need it, and a debt that can be repaid from annual allocation of Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding made to the airport by the Federal Aviation Administration.

But, the more funding the airport can come up with — in the form of state and federal grants, and other local funding sources — the fewer dollars the airport will have to use and repay from its bond program.

The CIP funding helps the airport in another way. There are projects which are ineligible for federal funding under FAA regulations that specify their funding cannot be used on revenue-producing areas (car rental or ticket counters), or maintenance (repairing parking lots).

The airport has identified $2 million in terminal projects that fall into those ineligible categories: $1.4 million for work directly related to the terminal and $597,000 for maintenance. Those projects include an upgrade of airline offices, renovation of car rental areas, replacing furniture in the general public area, overlaying parking lots, security gate work, roof repairs, and work on the airport’s irrigation system.

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