A Gathering Place For Tulsa

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Renderings of the future riverfront park reveal the vision of a gathering place as a nature-rich environment for activities and community. Image courtesy A Gathering Place.
Renderings of the future riverfront park reveal the vision of a gathering place as a nature-rich environment for activities and community. Image courtesy A Gathering Place.

Thriving communities are anchored by centralized parks. It is this conclusion from the George Kaiser Family Foundation that became the basis for A Gathering Place, a large park under construction along Tulsa’s Arkansas River bank that will include more than 100 acres of riverfront space when complete.

The George Kaiser Family Foundation has partnered with numerous corporate and community philanthropists to fund the project, which the foundation hopes will have a positive cultural, economic and ecological impact on the city. The George Kaiser Family Foundation and its community partners will work together to create the $350 million park. With what is believed to be the largest gift to a public park in U.S. history, GKFF donated ownership of A Gathering Place to the Tulsa River Parks Authority; the River Parks Authority will be responsible for long-term operational and management responsibilities.

Children played a large part in September’s groundbreaking ceremony for a gathering place.  Photo courtesy A Gathering Place.
Children played a large part in September’s groundbreaking ceremony for a gathering place.
Photo courtesy A Gathering Place.

The hope for the park, which runs along Riverside Drive from 26th Street to 33rd Place, is that it will complement existing urban amenities and strengthen the connections between Tulsa and the natural environment.

The model for the park was unveiled in June 2013. Ideas were submitted for the park from the public and are reflected in the design, which is by Michael Van Valkenburgh and Associates, a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based firm that
specializes in urban projects. Oklahoma-based Manhattan Construction will manage the construction of the park.

“The design for A Gathering Place was heavily influenced from public input gathered at public meetings early in project planning,” says Jeff Stava, executive director of Tulsa’s Gathering Place, LLC. “More than 1,400 ideas were submitted, and many are reflected in the final park design. This park will truly belong to Tulsans and will be an asset for the current and future generations. The diverse features in A Gathering Place will create a park that young Tulsans will grow and develop in. Our vision is for A Gathering Place to be an inclusive space that all citizens feel welcome to experience year after year.”

With park development underway since the September 2014 groundbreaking ceremony, the 66.5-acre Phase I is estimated to be completed near the end of 2017. Information regarding project updates, photos, upcoming events and renderings can be found online at agatheringplacefortulsa.com.

A Positive Impact

The current site provides opportunity in the form of property, green space and proximity to Tulsa’s Arkansas River riverfront, says Stava.

“The park design leverages these opportunities by seamlessly unifying three previously separate parcels of land with the existing River Parks system, creating a dynamic and active park space,” he says. “This unique, continuous space will be created by two massive land bridges that [will] provide the heart of the new park and serve as a recreational connection between the city and the riverfront park systems.

Jeff Stava, executive director of Tulsa’s Gathering Place, Llc, stands on land near riverside drive that eventually will be transformed into a gathering place.  Photo by Natalie Green.
Jeff Stava, executive director of Tulsa’s Gathering Place, Llc, stands on land near riverside drive that eventually will be transformed into a gathering place.
Photo by Natalie Green.

“Not only will this allow visitors to reach and experience all areas of the park safely, it will afford Tulsans access to the Arkansas Riverfront like never before. Every aspect of the park is designed to be built intentionally to create learning opportunities for children and visitors. Major playground equipment within the park will be designed by Monstrum, based in Denmark, and Richter based in Germany. A Gathering Place will be the first U.S. based project for Monstrum, [which] creates highly imaginative playground environments,” he adds.

No doubt A Gathering Place will provide new opportunities for Tulsa residents in terms of entertainment and outdoor activities, but the park is also expected to have a large economic impact, as well. In a 2013 study it was projected that 580,000 visitors will patronize and experience the park annually. During the construction phase, more than 1,600 local construction jobs will be supported, and an estimated $460 million will be spent locally as a result of construction. Once A Gathering Place is completed, the park will support approximately 35 permanent jobs; and annual economic output for park operations is estimated to be in excess of $3.4 million.

“George Kaiser Family Foundation, corporate and community philanthropists and the Tulsa River Parks Authority are committed to creating a vibrant park to serve as a cornerstone to our city,” says Stava. “With design developed from community input, every aspect of this project is meant to improve the life of Tulsans and citizens in the surrounding communities…Along with our partners, we feel confident in the project we have begun, and the end result will enhance our community for generations to come.

A rendering projects what A Gathering Place will look like within Tulsa’s existing structure. Image courtesy A Gathering Place.
A rendering projects what A Gathering Place will look like within Tulsa’s existing structure. Image courtesy A Gathering Place.

Current Gathering Place Donors

  • Williams Companies, $16 million
  • QuikTrip, $12.5 million
  • Chapman Foundations, $10 million
  • ONEOK, $10 million
  • $5 million: Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation; Magellan Midstream Partners, L.P.; Nadel and Gussman Energy, LLC; F.W. Murphy Family Foundation; Peggy and Charles Stephenson; The Helmerich Trust; Joe Craft; The Zinke Family; SemGroup Corporation and Bank of Oklahoma.
  • $3 million: Kathy S. Craft, Unit Corporation, Laredo Petroleum, Manhattan Construction/Rooney Families and AAON, Inc.
  • $2 million: The Zarrow Foundations
  • $1.5 million: Thomas Families, Susan & William and Jill & Robert and John Steele Zink Foundation.
  • $1 million: Bumgarner Family Foundation, J.E. and L.E. Mabee Foundation, Stephen and Shelley Jackson Family Foundation, Linda & Stuart Price and Family, Pam and Tom Russell, Omni Air International, Bonnie Klein, Dekraai Family Fund and Grace and Franklin Bernsen Foundation.

Other significant donors to the Gathering Place project include Sarah and John Graves, Stuart Family Foundation, John Smith, Ernie Kivisto/Jane Ann Maconi Kivisto, Bryan Close, Peter M. Walter, Ed and Kathy Leinbach, Jackie and Bob Poe and Chickasaw Nation.

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