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Bringing Tulsa back to the national spotlight

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An artist's rendition of what A Gathering Place for Tulsa will look like.
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TULSA Okla. – If you’ve driven near East 31st Street and Riverside Drive you may have encountered the frustrating yet all too familiar sight of road work. But what lays beyond the construction signs is Tulsa’s newest park project.

A Gathering Place for Tulsa is being coined as the largest gift to a state park in United States history at a whopping $350 million.

A Gathering Place will be a 100-acre park on the riverfront for people of all ages to come and experience, with its ponds, natural trails, sports courts, and my personal favorite, a large lawn for movies!

Something about watching horror movies while snuggling beneath the stars with a warm blanket just makes me feel sentimental. 

The park is expected to get visitors anywhere from 500,000 to one million visitors annually after the park opens late 2017. 

The park project is headed by the George Kaiser family foundation – a foundation which has been very instrumental in many other Tulsa projects and who is responsible for revitalizing the almost ghostly Brady Arts District downtown.

The Kaiser Foundation purchased 100 acres along Riverside Drive for the park, and even had to demolish multiple apartment complexes and a historical landmark.

The Confederate-era style Blair Mansion sat on Riverside for over 50 years with its large lawn stretching out to the road.

Crews were originally slated to move the property early last year, but owner Daniel Buford who sold the property to the Kaiser Foundation, decided it would not be worth the cost.

Tulsa has been ready for a new project for many years with its last major project being back in 2012 with Guthrie Green, a downtown park named after Oklahoman and legend folk singer Woody Guthrie, where concerts and other events are held.

Before that, it’s all the way back to 2007 with the construction of the BOK Center.

Where the park shines though is the wizard behind the curtain, its architect, Michael Van Valkenburgh.

“Tulsa is already an amazingly livable city, and I think people see this as another piece of the puzzle of making a great place to live and to raise families,” Van Valkenburgh said.

He is a much respected landscape architect who has worked on park projects in the U.S., Canada, and even France.

One of his most notable works has been the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York; a park which stretches 1.3 miles along the East River.

It looks like Tulsa is getting some help from the city that never sleeps.

The director of the park is Tony Moore, 48, who most recently served as the chief operating officer at Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Florida.

At A Gathering Place, he will lead the overall guest experience and oversee all programming and operations.

Moore has experience with venues such as SeaWorld and Universal Studios Orlando.

“We will have a park in Tulsa that will be regional and well-respected from a regional point of view,” Moore said. “But from a selfish point of view, I would like to see this park grow and be respected from a national point of view.” 

With architect Van Valkenburgh and director Moore it looks as if Tulsa is in wonderful hands to gain national attention again, and maybe, just maybe return to its days of old.

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Spencer Cox

Spencer Cox is a journalist based in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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