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Gathering Place (Tulsa park) facts for kids

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Gathering Place
Location Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States
Owner Tulsa River Parks Authority
Opened September 8, 2018 (2018-09-08)
Operating season Year round
Area 66.5 acres (26.9 ha)
Status Operating

Gathering Place (est. on September 8, 2018) is a public open space in Tulsa, Oklahoma. First announced in 2014, and previously called The Gathering Place and A Gathering Place for Tulsa, it is centered on the east bank of the Arkansas River south of the Downtown area and immediately west of the historic Maplewood Historic District, an upscale residential area. Largely the brainchild of Tulsa multibillionaire and philanthropist, George Kaiser, "Gathering Place" was designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh. This public-private partnership covers approximately 100 acres of land and as of September 2018, has cost about $465 million to construct.

The main attractions are the Chapman Adventure Playground, the Williams Lodge, a boathouse, splash playground, great lawn, outdoor sports courts, a skate park, a wetland pond and garden, and numerous trails among other locations. There are plenty of activities for kids and adults alike.

Tulsa's Gathering Place was named the Best New Attraction in the nation in 2018 through the USA Today Readers’ Choice awards. In 2019, Gathering Place made Time Magazine's list of The World's 100 Greatest Places of 2019, National Geographic's list of 12 Mind-Bending Playgrounds Around the World, and the American Planning Association's list of six great public spaces in America.

According to the Tulsa World, Gathering Place officials had planned for the facility to attract a million visitors per year. The actual attendance for the first ten days of operation was 155,000. The two-day grand opening attracted about 55,000 visitors.


The George F. Kaiser Family Foundation, supported by several corporations and local philanthropies provided the construction funds, then deeded the facility to the River Parks Authority, which will provide public oversight for the park. The Kaiser Family Foundation also created a $100 million endowment to support maintenance of the park for the next 99 years.


Gathering Place supports multiple Sport Court attractions on the property. Individuals seeking out a fun game of basketball, volleyball, street soccer, or street hockey will find venues for them here. Parking is conveniently located court-side where there is space for both organized and casual players, as well as fans and spectators. The sports courts are all also equipped with night-lights to allow play to continue after dark.

Gun Rights issue

Gathering Place officials have implemented a policy banning individuals from carrying or using firearms in the park. According to George Kaiser, this is a legal policy because the facility is considered privately owned. However, Second Amendment advocates say that it is a public facility because its partnership with public agencies make it public. On opening day, Tulsa Police officers, acting as security, turned away a private citizen who was carrying a firearm. On the next day, the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association held a rally at Gathering Place, where the leader told the gathering that, '“(They) are going to come into compliance with state law one way or the other. We ask them to do it so we don’t have to force them to.”

In October, Tulsa's Litigation Division Division manager, Gerry Bender, told the press that Tulsa Police will not arrest people in the park who violate the park's no gun policy because the city fears that arrests would be legally challenged. He also added, "“We maintain the legal authority to enforce all ordinances and State laws applicable to private spaces open to the public.”

Future Additions

Phase II

Groundbreaking on the anchor project for phase two, Discovery Lab, occurred in February 2020. The $47 million, 50,000 square foot Discovery Lab will be a hands-on museum also featuring classrooms, a café, grand plaza and 300-seat amphitheater. It is expected to be completed by the late summer of 2021.

"The Gateway" project

City officials have announced that they will begin construction of a new pedestrian bridge across the Arkansas River as soon as possible after the Phase I opening. Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates won a design contest to implement the project, which will be known as "The Gateway." Tulsa River Parks Authority said that the project has been estimated to be completed three years after construction begins, and cost the city $24.4 million.

The project will replace an existing pedestrian bridge, which has been designated as "structurally deficient". The city plans to demolish the old bridge in December 2020 or January 2021.

Effects of 2019 Arkansas River flooding

The unusually heavy rains along the Arkansas River caused flooding, especially after it forced major releases from Keystone Dam. This raised the water level downstream above flood stage in many areas and threatened to damage the new Gathering Place, which had opened in the preceding fall, and had to close for a week, until the flood had begun to subside. Gathering Place authorities began to assess the damage and plan repairs.

The east bank of the river experienced relatively light damage, with water covering two of the five sports courts south of 31st street. After hosing off mud and debris, inspectors found no significant damage to the playing surfaces. However, the flood caused some washouts along the East Bank Trail. At 58th Street and Riverside Drive, it washed away a light stanchion. Matt Meyer, Executive Director of the Tulsa River Parks Authority, told the press that the washout showed a need to install cable-concrete type bank reinforcement. He noted that a similar project the city had done two years earlier had cost about $1,000 per linear foot.

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