Gathering Place – Tulsa’s Riverfront Park

The Gathering Place is a one-year-old public park in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The park covers about 100 acres of land along the Arkansas River just south of downtown. USA Today named The Gathering Place the Best New Attraction in its 2018 Reader’s Choice poll, it made Time Magazine’s list of the World’s 100 Greatest Places of 2019 and National Geographic listed it as one of 12 Mind-Bending Playgrounds Around the World.

I wondered if The Gathering Place would measure up to all the hype and after spending about 6 hours there today I can testify that it does. It is hard to explain exactly what it is – its a garden, its a lake, its a children’s playground, it has restaurants, work areas, meeting areas (inside and outside), sports courts, places to bike, run, skate and skateboard and even has hidden nooks and crannies for sulky teens to hang out – all FREE except for food. I saw it called an “amusement park” somewhere and I’m not sure it fits that category as compared to Six Flags but it definitely does amuse. Hopefully the pictures here will help define it a little better.

So after seeing the pictures what you would call it? A park? A playground? Would you use it? How? What photo would you have used for the “featured image” on the blog? I used a shot of the playground but that only tells so much about it.

The park cost $465 million to construct. The George F. Kaiser Family Foundation, several corporations and local philanthropies provided the funding for construction of the park and The Kaiser Family Foundation created a $100 million endowment to support the maintenance of the park for the next 99 years. Then the park was deeded over to the River Parks Authority. I was told by a docent no taxpayer money has been used for it.

At the far south end of the park, which I did not get to, has lighted sports courts for basketball, volley ball, street hockey, street soccer and a state of the art skate and bike park.

A Phase #2 of the project is in the works. There is a low head dam with a dilapidated [closed] covered wooden pedestrian bridge across the Arkansas River that if extended would come right into the park and connect both sides of the river (below). A docent told me a design is on the table currently for a two deck bridge (one walking, one biking).