A Gathering Place for Tulsa has a Director
Tony Moore was recently selected as the Director of Gathering Place. Upon relocating, he and his family have been pleasantly surprised with Tulsa’s beautiful landscape, the friendliness of the residents and the amenities in and around the Tulsa area. On a professional side, the knowledge and experience he brings to his new role was gathered over 30 years of serving in leadership positions for some of the world’s most well-known entertainment destinations. Moore is focused and ready on providing an exceptional experience to visitors of Tulsa’s much-anticipated multi-million-dollar park.
TK: How did you become interested in the hospitality industry?
Moore: I wish I could say that my entry into the hospitality industry was a deliberate strategical plan. To the contrary, it happened all by chance. What started out as a fun part-time job during college ultimately transformed into a passionate and exciting career in a fun industry. It all started at SeaWorld, where I was fortunate to have the privilege of serving in a wide range of diverse capacities.
TK: Can you share your professional experience that has prepared you for this position?
Moore: At SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment: Marketing Manager, Director of Park Operations, Director of Environmental Health and Safety, Director of Culinary Revenue, and Director of Corporate Operations and Executive Assistant to the President and Chairman of The Board. Also, I held operational leadership roles at Universal Studios and later served as Chief Operating Officer for Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, overseeing the re-launch of the zoo’s brand as it related to all new project development and in-park brand enhancements, competitive market analysis, community affairs, programming and special events development and production.
TK: Given your impressive experience working with so many well-known parks, what interested you about relocating to Tulsa and assuming the lead role as Executive Director of A Gathering Place?
Moore: I must admit that I was at first a little shy and apprehensive about moving to Tulsa. You know, after years of working in major tourist destinations with big brands, I wasn’t so sure that I wanted to move to a much smaller city in Oklahoma. But, wow, I am now so grateful that I took the time to listen. Once I was able to better understand the scope of the project, the diversity of its content and the commitment to the project by the Kaiser Family Foundation and other donors, it became a rather easy decision for me.
My next concern was, how was I going to convince my wife to leave Florida?
Ironically, that was an easier feat than I had initially anticipated. After her first visit to Tulsa, she was sure that this is where she wanted to raise our two kids, Kai and Casilo, ages 6 and 2.
TK: What are you looking forward to implementing into A Gathering Place?
Moore: A project with the pedigree of “A Gathering Place for Tulsa,” with such exceptional architectural excellence and world-class attractions, is most deserving of the very best in operational excellence. Quite frankly, the citizens of Tulsa and their kids are deserving of the very best in quality operations and exceptional customer service. I’m hoping to operate the park with a very high regard for quality as exhibited in our landscaping and our grounds management. I would also like to develop a distinctive service culture of customer care for both our guests and our internal team members. While it’s critical that our guests remain our utmost priority, it is equally important that our team members feel that they belong to and are a part of something special.
TK: Can you share a little about your family?
Moore: [I’ve been] happily married for just over 15 years with two kids. My wife (Gillian) also worked in the hospitality industry at Universal Studios, Florida. Being that she is from the industry, she is a little more patient than she needs to be with my long work hours. While my mom, dad and siblings are still in Florida, my immediate family has all relocated to Tulsa. At first, my daughter Kai missed her school friends quite a bit, but she has since wasted no time in making new friends at school. Now her anticipation for the opening of the park is tremendous. When I worked at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo as their chief operating officer, Kai would often tell her friends that I owned the zoo. Now it makes me wonder what she will have to say about A Gathering Place when it opens.
TK: Being new to Tulsa, how was the transition?
Moore: Our transition here has been quite pleasant. Everyone has been so welcoming. I have even had total strangers inviting me over for dinner, how about that! I was also so pleasantly surprised to discover that Tulsa has rolling hills — was not expecting that. I expected everywhere in Tulsa to be much like the rest of Oklahoma, flat as a pancake. We were also so pleased that all the major store brands were also in Tulsa, so we would not have to travel far for shopping, with the exception of Ikea that is. Tulsa needs an Ikea store.
TK: What does your family enjoy doing together around Tulsa?
Moore: As a family, we are all enjoying Tulsa quite a bit, good schools, plenty of places to dine around, and we love the arts and theatres. We are hoping to enjoy a few Drillers and Roughneck games as well.
TK: As the new park director, what will your job entail?
Moore: As the Park Director for A Gathering Place for Tulsa, my job responsibilities will involve all aspects of the park operation. It’s kind of like being handed a mantle of responsibility, really. The George Kaiser Family Foundation, many other generous donors, along with Michael Van Valkenburgh (world renowned landscape architect) have planned, designed, funded and developed a most remarkable and distinguished park for Tulsans. Now it will be my responsibility to ensure that this park lives up to, or better yet, exceeds expectations. We have to deliver in every aspect of the experience, from programing, to operations, from community outreach, to safety, from guest services to culinary services. We want our visiting guests to leave our park very pleased, share their experiences both socially and by word of mouth and then return to visit us again. That will only happen when we consistently deliver in all aspects of the guest experience.
TK: What do you anticipate being some of your favorite parts of the park?
Moore: Wow… that’s a very difficult question as there are so many cool areas of the park.
I think that the three-acre pond in the very center of the park is a statement of tranquility as it aesthetically meanders around the landscape. The Lodge…will redefine everything that you thought you knew about a traditional lodge appearance. I think the flowing Arkansas River and the view of Zink Lake is going to be surprisingly satisfying, just to sit and watch time go by.
The five-acres adventure play area is going to be the most fun and most visited area of the park for young kids, while the BMX pump track and the sport courts will be the coolest place for teenagers to hang out, but I think the two areas that will be most impressive and serve as iconic statements for the park are going to be the land bridge tunnels with its impressive architecture and the boathouse with its exquisite contemporary design.
TK: What are three little known facts about the park that you can share?
Moore: 1) Unbelievable combination of construction textures…. A contemporary combination of glass, stone and wood will resonate in many of the architectural construction designs. 2) There will be many fun activities that both parent and child can experience together such as fishing, canoeing, tower climbing and nature watching. 3) The park will boast hundreds of linear feet of stone corridors specifically mined from Oklahoma sandstone.
TK: What is the timeline for things to open at A Gathering Place?
Moore: I am happy to say that the construction timeline is right on schedule and on budget. We are now almost 40 percent completed, and we are hoping for a mild and dry winter.
TK: What are some of your future plans for programming?
Moore: Park programming is a major initiative and commitment for the park. While most guests will initially visit the park for its original content, it’s the diversity of the programing that will bring them back over and over again. My hope is that our programing will be iconic and distinctive, I would love to challenge our Programming Team to be the first to try new ideas, to be creatively innovative with their events. Our programing will also be diverse, specifically catering to a wide range of cultural audiences and demographics. Our objective is that A Gathering Place for Tulsa will be visited and experienced by all Tulsans, so my hope is that we can uniquely attract all cultures with culture-specific programming. Our programming will be fun and educational, should appeal to kids and adults and share a commitment to wellness and learning.