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OC center takes on new Enterprise

Monday, August 27, 2007  
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When Enterprise Square USA shut down its brand of interactive free enterprise education on the campus of Oklahoma Christian University in 2000, officials declared it would reopen after undergoing a renovation.

Nearly seven years later, plans for a $6 million renovation have emerged that will transform Enterprise Square into a completely repurposed facility that will serve the university and the community in myriad ways.

The new 65,000-square-foot Enterprise Square will be the academic center for Oklahoma Christian's School of Business, provide faculty and administrative offices, art gallery and exhibit space and a home to the university's Academy of Leadership & Liberty.

The new Enterprise Square also will showcase Oklahoma Christian's collection of 224 pieces of original art called America's Call to Freedom, donated by Sam Ingram.

"We want to honor the purpose to which Enterprise Square was originally birthed," said Mike O'Neal, president of Oklahoma Christian. "Many benefactors came alongside Oklahoma Christian University and wanted to partner in Enterprise Square.

"What we have said in its rebirth is we want to be faithful to the teaching of free enterprise, liberty and leadership, things that are consistent with that original mission."

Although more than $1 million already has been raised for the renovation, no timeline has been set for the reopening, O'Neal said.

The university will kick off a capital campaign in October to raise the remaining $5 million needed for construction, said Nathan Mellor, executive director of the Academy of Leadership & Liberty and an assistant professor in Oklahoma Christian's business administration school.

"The amount of excitement about what this could be and the opportunity this has given us to reconnect with people here in the city has been phenomenal," Mellor said.

More than two dozen Oklahoma City business and civic leaders serve on the board of the Academy of Leadership & Liberty, O'Neal said.

The new Enterprise Square — it is dropping the "USA" — will be redesigned with a new second-floor west entrance, a second floor skylight to open the building to natural light, 12 new classrooms, 65 offices and a small auditorium. It will have a coffee shop, deli and student center in what was once known as the Hall of Giants. The building will gain 5,000 square feet for better use of existing space.

Construction time is estimated at 12 months from the start date, Mellor said.

"The building itself is structurally a fantastic building," he said. "We're trying to integrate the mission of the building to be both academic and nonacademic."

Enterprise Square USA was a victim of changing technology and the inability of administrators to keep it updated.

"Although in the last few years it became woefully obsolete, in the first few years we believe it was something that was a source of great pride," Mellor said.

Oklahoma Christian has saved some of the interactive games that were used in the original Enterprise Square USA museum, which drew more than 600,000 school children and hosted presidents and giants of industry. Both Presidents Bush walked its halls, as did retailing icon Sam Walton of Wal-Mart and airline innovator Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines.

The new Enterprise Square will be open to the public and school children for tours, although it won't offer the interactive technology, Mellor said.

Although it is no longer open, the place still draws visitors who ask to see it, including a woman who recently stopped by and asked for a memento for her son who toured the museum when he was 8 years old and today is a stockbroker on Wall Street.

"There isn't a week that goes by that there isn't somebody coming to Enterprise Square, now six years after it closed," Mellor said. "We had a school bus that stopped last week and (the people) asked, 'Can we just walk through?'"

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