Jeff Stava: Leading the Gathering
Jeff Stava is the man responsible for directing George Kaiser’s multi-million-dollar investment known as Gathering Place. Stava is the Executive Director and Trustee of Tulsa’s Gathering Place, LLC for the George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF). In discussing this future amenity, he highlights that Gathering Place will include: acres of planned space for future visitors to enjoy, ways it will enhance the natural landscape of the community, and the lasting legacy it will have for future generations.
TK: How did you get the opportunity to become involved in this project?
JS: When I started at the Tulsa Community Foundation, I was responsible for a managing the foundation’s real-estate holdings including the two apartments at 31st and Riverside Dr. When talks started happening about the River Parks and the trail system along the river, Tulsa’s most popular park system, and how we could build a large gathering place to enhance River Parks, I was excited about the project and volunteered to coordinate. As time went on and plans were firmed up, it was time to pull the gloves off and focus on developing it into a space the entire Tulsa community could benefit from. We held numerous public meetings to garner input for what this park could be for our community. To bring this kind of project together, it definitely requires a team mindset and approach. There is a team of over 150 people managing this project, with around 250 construction workers on-site today and at its peak around 650 workers. This project is the largest the Foundation has endeavored to date.
TK: What is the estimated financial investment of this project?
JS: The investment totals $400 million. This total is broken down: land ($50 million), construction ($225 million), architect/engineering ($25 million) and the endowment ($100 million). It is important to note that this project is not paid for by the city or county. It will have the highest level of quality care of operations, security and programming made possible by the donors’ permanent endowment. We are fortunate to have a lot of community partners working hard to engage the community, and to build knowledge and excitement about this project.
TK: What do you foresee will be the long-term benefits of this project to the Tulsa community?
JS: Having such a large green space along the Arkansas River, right along the water’s edge combined with the Vision passage that includes two new low-water dams and pedestrian bridge crossings, these combined will provide endless possibilities for outdoor activities in Tulsa—including the expansion of Turkey Mountain. I feel our best days are ahead of us in taking advantage of the riverfront. We are fortunate that many of our civic and corporate leaders want to attract and maintain the talent pool of individuals in Tulsa, value green space, and value outdoor space for the community. This park will become a selling point for the community.
TK: Which local corporations are helping in this endeavor?
JS: Our four largest donors are Williams Companies, QuikTrip, ONEOK and Chapman Foundations – combined, they have contributed nearly $50 million. There are over 70 donors combined who have pledged over $150 million to date, and continuing to fundraise.
TK: How do you envision The Gathering Place will benefit families?
JS: GKFF is excited about programming for the park – especially the children’s programming. Program focus areas for all ages include: cultural, arts and crafts, physical activities, nature, science, gardens and annual events and festivals. We envision a robust curriculum that teachers can use to synchronize with the hallmarks of early childhood education to teach in the classroom and then see it first-hand when they explore the park. The park will be an outdoor classroom for kids — with endless learning opportunities.
TK: Tell us about your family:
JS: Susie and I have been married for 11 years and we have two boys; Luke is 7 years old and Will is 8 years old.
TK: In your free time, what does your family like to do around the Tulsa area?
JS: We love to spend time at Grand Lake. Susie and I love time with family, friends and watching the sunsets. Luke loves to fish and Will enjoys tubing at the lake. We spend a lot of time outside. We love to go eat Mexican food, both boys love it. We are lifetime members of the Tulsa Children’s Museum and are also members of the Zoo and Aquarium.
TK: What are some fun facts about you?
JS: I love the outdoors. I am an avid duck hunter and I used to own a fishing lure company. I have been with Tulsa Community Foundation and George Kaiser Family Foundation for eight years.
TK: Do you have a favorite part of A Gathering Place?
JS: Yes, because of my love for nature, the outdoors and my kids, [it is] Chapman Adventure Playground. I look at things through the lens of my 7- and 8-year-olds to see what they get excited about. The design of the playground is going to be set up over five acres that will include seven landscaped play areas that are progressive by age group. We want it to be challenging for every age group. We intend to create a place where families will all have something to do and will be challenged in a different way. The park will provide a place for Tulsans and visitors alike to experience something new with each and every visit.