Gathering Place Park officially opened in Tulsa on Saturday, Sept. 8, transforming the city’s riverfront into a world-class destination offering a free public space for all to enjoy.
“Gathering Place’s mission has been clear from the beginning – to bring all Tulsans together for a shared experience,” said Tony Moore, Executive Park Director. “The Park excites, engages and educates Tulsans from all walks of life in a way they have never seen or experienced before.”
The opening kicked off with a parade featuring a Native American performing group, middle and high school marching bands from the Tulsa community, the Park’s trademark hip-hop dance group the Gather Round Crew, the Reading Tree Challenge Champion readers and many more.
At $465 million, Gathering Place represents the largest private gift to a public park in U.S. history. Gifted to the River Parks Authority by the George Kaiser Family Foundation, numerous corporate and community philanthropists have contributed generously to support the Park, exemplifying the Tulsa community’s spirit of inclusivity and giving. An estimated 1 million people are expected to visit the Park each year.
“I am proud and thankful of how Tulsans have embraced this park with their input, financial support and patience during construction as we worked to build a world-class destination for Tulsa,” said Jeff Stava, executive director and trustee of Tulsa’s Gathering Place, LLC and Vibrant and Inclusive Tulsa Team Leader at George Kaiser Family Foundation. “I have long envisioned a place where people from every background can come together and experience what this great city has to offer. Gathering Place is the culmination of years of hard work from many people in the community and our collective vision has been fully realized today.”
Following the parade, opening ceremonies took place with a “special skydiving entrance” that included the mayor of Tulsa, G.T. Bynum. After the exhilarating jump, Bynum read the last book as part of the Reading Tree Challenge in preparation for the opening of the Park. Approximately 1,000 Reading Tree Champion students were the first to enter the newly completed Park, receiving high-fives from dignitaries from across the state.
“The Gathering Place is the largest public park gift in American history and it is here in Tulsa thanks to the generosity of so many donors and the leadership of the George Kaiser Family Foundation,” said Mayor of Tulsa, G.T. Bynum. “The Gathering Place will serve as a catalyst among the many transformative projects we have in place now that will strengthen our city and bring people from around the world to Tulsa.”
Later in the day, bands including The Roots and Larkin Poe took to the stage, offering guests a one-of-a-kind musical showcase. Up to 50,000 people were expected at the opening weekend.
The first phase of Gathering Place spans 66.5 acres and offers entertainment for all ages; transforming the community and adding to the regional appeal of Tulsa as a destination city for the nation. The Park’s many activities include first-of-its-kind children’s programming at H.A. & Mary K. Chapman Adventure Playground, exhilarating athletic engagement at the Skate and BMX Parks and the SemGroup Sports Courts and kayak, canoe and paddle boat rentals available at the ONEOK Boathouse to take in the beauty of Peggy’s Pond.
Additional Park features include the QuikTrip Great Lawn, which hosts concerts and events along with the Williams Lodge, where guests can enjoy delicious food from Chef Kirk Swaby, drinks and a lounge area to relax around the two-story fireplace.
In addition to musical acts during the 100 Days of Celebration, visitors to the Park will be mesmerized by the skills of BMX professionals, awed by scientific inquiries from Doktor Kaboom and enlivened by the spectacle of Cirque Zuma Zuma, among other acts. Guests will be able to experience an Opening Celebration every day through December.
To excite the community leading up to opening, Tulsa-area students were challenged to read two million books as part of the Reading Tree Challenge. Based on the real Reading Tree, the largest and oldest cottonwood tree at Gathering Place, the challenge was geared toward igniting a child’s imagination to find the power and wonder in reading. Children in Tulsa County read more than 2.2 million books throughout the duration of the challenge.
“The Reading Tree Challenge was a wonderful opportunity to showcase the power of literacy to children across the Tulsa area,” said Deborah Gist, superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools. “We are thrilled our students read so many books and I encourage them to keep on reading to help the Reading Tree continue to grow.”
Gathering Place is now open to the public seven days a week. For hours and more information, visit www.GatheringPlace.org.
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