All About Gathering Place
Tulsa's long-anticipated public park is scheduled to open Sept. 8, 2018.
Since ground broke for construction in September of 2014, Tulsans have been eagerly awaiting the opening of Gathering Place (not to mention the re-opening of Riverside Drive!) and, as many may already know, that wait is almost over. As the September 8 opening date nears, here is everything you need to know about Gathering Place.
Designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, an architecture firm with extensive experience designing public parks across the United States, Gathering Place boasts an array of exciting features that will entice people of all ages.
The five-acre Adventure Playground features a toddler play area, including a banana-shaped slide and Volcanoville, where Gathering Place’s youngest guests can tackle a pint-sized “climbing wall.” Areas more suited to older children include the massive medieval castle towers, a wooden pirate ship and several steep (aka fast!) metal slides. As the weather warms up in the summer, children can cool off on Mist Mountain, with its various water play elements, from water cannons to mist areas.
Playing in the Adventure Playground. Photo by Shane Bevel.
According to Amanda Murphy, Gathering Place’s vice president of marketing, 34,000 children have already visited Gathering Place through the park’s First Look Field Trips for children in kindergarten through third grade.
“When those buses pulled up,” Murphy says, “The kids were absolutely stunned to see how vast the playground is. Our staff will never forget seeing the kids run in, screaming and laughing. Kids love everything, but especially mentioned our towers and the zip line.”
Teens may be particularly interested in Gathering Place’s bike and skate parks and five sports courts, where guests can enjoy a game of basketball, volleyball, street soccer or street hockey. Teenagers and adults alike may take advantage of the watercraft rentals available from the ONEOK boathouse, which is adjacent to Peggy’s Pond. Boat rental options include paddleboats, kayaks and canoes—and, of course, life jackets will be available, too.
Tulsans both young and old can look forward to hiking and walking paths and enjoying picnics and playtime on the Great Lawn, a massive green space that will connect the east and west sides of the park across Riverside Drive. The smaller Lakeview Lawn, adjacent to the Arkansas River, will provide sunset views and accessibility to the water.
When asked how accessible Gathering Place will be to people, particularly children, with disabilities, Murphy responds, “Gathering Place was designed for all guests. All park entrances, pathways and bridges are accessible, and there are Ultra ADA pads throughout Gathering Place along pathways, in parking lots and at building entrances…From a play perspective, we have swings in our playground that provide easy transport from wheelchair to swing for most. We also have a ramp so children in wheelchairs can experience much of the tower area, which is one of our most exciting attractions.”
Additionally, Gathering Place has provided two special facilities that guests can use if they experience any sensory anxieties while visiting the park: the first is at Guest Services within the Lodge, and the other can be found in a restroom located on the north side of Adventure Playground.
Like its “sister” park Guthrie Green, Gathering Place will offer year-round free programming for people of all ages, which will kick off with a concert headlined by The Roots on September 8.
“In our first year of operation, we will focus on events that are open to intergenerational audiences in order to serve the widest variety of guests possible,” says Kirsten Hein, vice president of programming. “After the first year, we will start to offer programming for targeted groups, by age and interests.”
While Gathering Place will have a permanent stage for children’s performances within the Adventure Playground as well as pop-up stages for special events, “The beauty of the park,” says Hein, “is that all of the outdoor space is a potential programming space! Much of the large-scale programming will take place on or around the QuikTrip Great Lawn, and much of the children’s programming will take place at the Reading Tree or Gather Round Stage in the playground area.”
Additionally, indoor programming will take place within the ONEOK Boathouse and Williams Lodge.
Although Gathering Place’s team of programmers is still in the process of developing ideas for future presentations at the park, their efforts will focus on educational programming, volunteer opportunities, celebrating public art and creating fun events. Look forward to health and wellness initiatives, including outdoor fitness classes, as well as family friendly concerts and festivals in the future.
Photo by Shane Bevel.
+ Food With a View
All that play is sure to work up an appetite, but if you forget your picnic basket at home, don’t worry: Gathering Place will have plenty of dining options. One of the most popular may be the ONEOK Boathouse, described by Murphy as “the tall building with the white, swooping roof that boasts an amazing view.”
ONEOK Boathouse will offer a varied menu that caters to diners both on a budget or looking for a date-night splurge. There will be many family friendly options as well.
Parents who anticipate spending a day watching their children play at Adventure Playground may rejoice to learn that the Williams Lodge, located near the playground, will serve coffee. Other Lodge offerings include gelato and other grab-and-go items.
Guests with food allergies or other dietary restrictions will be able to choose from several allergy friendly food options.
Photo by Shane Bevel.
= Gathering Place
Gathering Place has been thoughtfully designed so that everyone from the Tulsa-area—and beyond—can find multiple reasons to visit. We’d love to hear what you and your family love most about your visit to the city’s newest and largest park once it opens. Let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org—or better yet, tag @tulsakids in your Gathering Place photos on Instagram so that we can share in the fun! Who knows? You may even be featured in an upcoming issue of TulsaKids!
Photo by Shane Bevel.
+ Plus… (FAQs)
What are Gathering Place’s hours?
Typically, the park will be open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., with Adventure Playground closing before sundown. This may vary throughout the year, however.
Where can I park?
Parking will be available at several locations throughout the park, and each lot will have ADA parking, too. Additional parking will be available during Gathering Place’s Grand Opening period in order to accommodate as many guests as possible.
How can I stay up-to-date on all the latest news from Gathering Place?
Follow @GatherTulsa on Facebook, or visit their website, www.gatheringplace.org. If you still want more, follow them on Twitter or Instagram or sign up for their newsletters.
Will Gathering Place have on-site security?
Yes; there will be 24-hour, on-site security. According to Murphy, “The safety of our guests is our top priority.”
Will I be able to swim at Gathering Place?
No; while young guests may enjoy playing in the sand at Willow Beach next to Peggy’s Pond, and older guests may rent watercraft to use on the pond, swimming in Peggy’s Pond is not allowed. If you need to cool off, however, a trip to Mist Mountain is a great way to do so!
Is there an entrance fee?
No! Entrance to Gathering Place and participation in Gathering Place’s programming are free. However, bring money if you’d like to purchase food on-site.
How much money did it take to build Gathering Place?
$465 million has been spent building Gathering Place; of this total, $400 million was donated by families and businesses, the bulk of which came from George Kaiser Family Foundation.
How big is Gathering Place?
Phase 1 of the park, which will open September 8, 2018, is a total of 66.5 acres. Phase II, which will include a new building for Discovery Lab, will add an additional 33 acres to the park space.
First 100 Days: Gathering Place Performances You Won’t Want to Miss
- September 8-9: Grand Opening Weekend with The Roots, Hot 8 Brass Band, the Swon Brothers, and Pedrito Martinez Group.
- September 8-10: Pro BMX Showcase*
- September 20-21: Brady Rymer & The Little Band that Could*
- September 27: Lisa Loeb*
- October 4-5: Cirque Zuma Zuma*
- October 18-19: Alphabet Rockers*
- October 19: Kirk Franklin and Tulsa’s Metropolitan Baptist Church Choir
- October 22-24: Story Pirates*
- November 2: Kickoff to Native American Heritage Month with A Tribe Called Red and special guests
Quotes from Gathering Place Enthusiasts
“I love the park!” Maebry also told us she occasionally got some inside intel from her dad. For example, she shared this: “My dad told me that the trees in the Upside Down Forest are made from the trees in the park.” — Maebry Smith, age 11
“The park is fun!” When the park opens, Beckham says he plans to check out the giant spider web. — Beckham Davenport
“[My favorite part of Gathering Place is] the goose with the ladder!” — Joss Rittler, age 3
“[I’ve worked] mainly on the Boathouse building and the Lodge building. Both buildings are very unique, and they have a lot of custom materials like natural stone. Poteau is where the majority of the stone comes from. Because they’re using a lot of custom pieces, they’re not prefabricated, [so] you have to do a lot of work to make sure all the pieces fit together.” — Justin Lockwood, project manager
“We moved up here for this job, and [Justin] came straight to Gathering Place. We were in Oklahoma City, and ever since he started, we’ve been hearing how cool it’s going to be and we’ve been really excited. I keep telling everyone, ‘This is going to be so cool, [with] so many things to do for everybody. So we are super excited!” — Lindsey Lockwood, wife of Project Manager Justin Lockwood