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Here We Grow Again

With 100 acres filled with features where visitors can enjoy the wonders of nature, education, and family fun, the Gathering Place is designed to bring together people of all ages and backgrounds.

Article
Michele Chiappetta
Photos
Sarah Eliza Roberts
Posted
August 28, 2018

On Sept. 8, the Gathering Place of Tulsa opens officially to the public. This immense riverfront public park and destination spot is designed to bring together people of all ages and backgrounds. With 100 acres filled with features where visitors can enjoy the wonders of nature, art, education, and family fun, the Gathering Place is driving ahead on all cylinders to provide something for everyone.

Creating a community space that is truly inclusive is central to the park’s goals, explains Gathering Place executive park director Tony Moore. “We have specific goals [for the next few years] that align with our mission, which is to have a park of unity that helps bring the four corners of Tulsa together in one space,” he says. “We want all cultures to embrace the park as their own.”

Millions of dollars have been donated to bring the Gathering Place to fruition — $465 million so far, to be exact — the largest gift to a municipality in the history of the United States. Of these funds, $400 million has come from private donations made by organizations like the George Kaiser Family Foundation. More than 80 corporate and philanthropic organizations are involved so far. The remaining $65 million was invested by the City of Tulsa and Tulsa County to pay for infrastructure.

Millions of dollars have been donated to bring the Gathering Place to fruition — $465 million so far, to be exact — the largest gift to a municipality in the history of the United States. (Photo: Sarah Eliza Roberts)
Millions of dollars have been donated to bring the Gathering Place to fruition — $465 million so far, to be exact — the largest gift to a municipality in the history of the United States. (Photo: Sarah Eliza Roberts)

Though the Gathering Place is labeled a public park, it’s so much more than that. “Oklahoma has some awesome parks,” Moore says. “But the Gathering Place, because of its wide range of content, is simply not your typical park. Tulsans have in mind what they’re more familiar with, but the Gathering Place is unique. It’s almost one linear mile running north and south. People are blown away by the scale and size and range of content.”

For starters, says Moore, there are the SemGroup Sports Courts, which allow visitors to play basketball, volleyball, street hockey and street soccer. There’s a skate park, and there are BMX tracks for expert, intermediate and beginner riders. And there are walking and biking trails too, along the Arkansas River.

Water lovers will enjoy Peggy’s Pond, where they can ride kayaks, canoes, and paddle boats. “Visitors can enjoy the tranquil waters,” says Moore. At the nearby ONEOK Boathouse, visitors can take in the gorgeous atmosphere as they relax waterside.

“The Boathouse has a one-of-a-kind roof, made with tall white acrylic fiberglass, stunning white surfaces and shapes. There’s nothing like it,” says Moore. “We have an overlook attached to the roof structure where we can host 300 people. The vistas from that perch is quite outstanding. You can see the lit skyline of downtown Tulsa, the Great Lawn [where outdoor events will be held], and Peggy’s Pond.”

For families, the Gathering Place offers great spaces for play, geared toward different age groups. (Photo: Sarah Eliza Roberts)
For families, the Gathering Place offers great spaces for play, geared toward different age groups. (Photo: Sarah Eliza Roberts)

The Williams Lodge is another cool space — a place to invite gatherings under one vast roof. “It’s like a ski lodge on steroids,” Moore says. The Lodge covers 25,000 square feet, with a gorgeous, three-story stone fireplace and a patio offering fantastic views of the park.

The Gathering Place hosts a restaurant too, with an outdoor bar. “We thought this would be a great way to have a platform to speak about food from a healthy point of view,” Moore says. The chef is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu and will be incorporating authentic cuisine into the Gathering Place’s events.

Art is a big part of the park as well, with installations by both local and national artists. The Boathouse features an interactive cloud chandelier by nationally renowned new media sculptor Jen Lewin; the chandelier shifts in reaction to visitors’ movements. There is also a Cabinet of Wonder made by award-winning artist Mark Dion. “It’s a vast collection of artifacts from around the world,” Moore explains. “There’s a story attached to each unique piece and where he acquired it from.”

For families, the Gathering Place offers great spaces for play, geared toward different age groups. “There are seven different realms of play for children ages 2 to 12,” says Moore. “We pride ourselves in saying this is a park for all Tulsans, but we have also specifically focused in on kids. We have a lot of activities for families and kids.”

Among the special features for children are custom-designed wooden playground equipment that looks like animals; bridges and towers, the tallest rising to 63 feet; a water maze; and a safe zone where toddlers can play separately from older children. It’s all designed to be fun for kids and relaxing for parents.

There’s even a Reading Tree, which allows the Gathering Place to promote reading among children. The space will open once Tulsa’s children have read a collective 2 million books. “We want to be at the forefront at promoting reading,” says Moore. The Gathering Place will also provide story time in the park, a mobile library, STEM-inspired programming and other educational activities.

Moore and his staff and volunteers hope to see visitors not just from the Tulsa area, but from Oklahoma City, Arkansas, Kansas and other states. Entrance to the park is free, made possible by generous donations from the Tulsa philanthropic community.

The Gathering Place opens to the public with a free concert by The Roots on Sept. 8, kicking off 100 days of fun and special events to celebrate the opening.  

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General Park Rules

For the safety of everyone, visitors must fully comply with all posted Gathering Place rules. In addition to general rules below, select park features have additional rules that must be followed to ensure that the park is enjoyable and safe for all.
• No glass bottles.
• No amplified sound devices; please use headphones to enjoy your music.
• No pets other than service animals are allowed in play areas unless otherwise authorized; pets will be allowed on the Midland Valley and riverfront trails and during designated days as published.
• No smoking permitted (traditional or e-cigarettes) except in designated areas.
• No transport devices larger than a child’s wagon (other than wheelchairs).
• Skates, skateboards, scooters, roller blades, bicycles and powered ride vehicles (except for ECVs used by mobility-impaired guests) are allowed only in designated areas.
• Rock and structure climbing is prohibited unless designated; ask a Gathering Place staff member if you have any questions.
• The open or concealed carry of guns, knives or other weapons is strictly prohibited.
• No drones or other radio-controlled equipment are to be operated at Gathering Place.

LOCATOR
Gathering Place
2650 S. John Williams Way | Tulsa
918-779-1000
gatheringplace.org
Park: 9 a.m.-10 p.m.
Attractions and restaurants have separate hours

April 2019 Cover