Gathering Place Looks to Change Tulsa Oklahoma for the Better
By Matt Martella
Gathering Place Park will mark a hopeful turning point for the city of Tulsa Oklahoma. Located on the Arkansas River waterfront, this 100-acre park will be a warm and welcoming place for the Tulsa community that will encourage them to explore, learn, and play together.
A major goal in Gathering Place, that opened in 2019, is to improve the controversial reputation of Tulsa. Tulsa has a history of racial violence, including the horrific 1921 Tulsa race massacre.
Also, Tulsa is known as the “Oil Capital of the World,” which has caused plenty of urban development problems during the 20th and into the 21st century.
Needless to say, Tulsa is a divided city, but Gathering Place is a step in the right direction for a more unified community.
The workers behind Gathering Place are proud of their bold and noble ambitions for the park, saying: “We are Gathering Place. We are Tulsa. We are diverse, passionate, and true to our beliefs. We remain consistent in our mission, as a project led by George Kaiser Family Foundation, that we all become united in our love for our community”.
United from Every Zip Code
The park’s website states: “Relatives, close friends, neighbors, we are all family. We are united from every zip code, from the city to the suburbs, from the river to the hills, from the north to the south, from the west to the east. Gathering Place is the ultimate expression of Tulsa’s spirit of unity. A place for everyone”.
After years of planning, Tulsa’s dream of a place to celebrate together by the iconic riverfront finally became a reality, thanks to the George Kaiser Family Foundation and plenty of generous donations from the community,
Gathering Place opened its doors with limited offerings on September 8th, 2018. And now that its fully open, Gathering Place has plenty to offer tourists and community members alike, making it well on its way to fulfilling its goal of becoming a center of unity.
Things To Do at the Gathering Place
There are over 100 unique experiences at Gathering Place. These experiences include attractions, special events, commissioned art showcases, sports, and dining hot-spots.
The Chapman Adventure Playground 5-acre kingdom that lets kids learn while they play. The playground features towers, slides, climbing walls, gardens, sandlots, and water areas, all in service to help kids discover and test their physical abilities. Although Tulsa is subject to hot summers, the Chapman Adventure Playground is well equipped with large trees to keep kids in the shade while they are having the time of their lives.
The Spiral Connector is one of the most iconic realms in Gathering Place. The Spiral Connector consists of seven towers with plenty of climbing structures, slides, suspension bridges, puzzles, and instruments. Each of the towers offers a unique experience that encourages physical play and imagination, so it is no wonder why the Spiral Connector is such a popular site.
The Reading Tree is the oldest and largest cottonwood tree in the park and is the center for literacy programming.
Suitable for families with children from infants to fifth grade, the Reading Tree has live singalong performances and story time on a regular basis.
After a day of running around the park, Gathering Place has the Picnic Grove in case you need to refuel. Hidden on the south of the playground, Picnic Grove is the perfect spot to unpack a quick snack or eat a full meal with the family.
It has tables and chairs of all sizes made from recycled trees and is located behind the cabanas by the Chapman Adventure Playground Towers.
Art in the Park
Gathering Place is working with Oklahoma artists to add flair to the park, whether that be in murals, sculptures, or furniture designs. Some upcoming projects include a sculpture that also functions as a misting device, a wood slab bench, and fully upholstered piece for the ONEOK Boathouse and murals in the Chapman Adventure Playground rest areas.
Cabinet of Wonders is a showcase of art both local to Tulsa and all over the world. The collection is meant to stimulate creativity and conversation for those who come to visit. World-renown artist Mark Dion is the designer of this unique collection of trophies, books, ornaments, awards, postcards, photographs, and other historical artifacts.
The Global Rainbow is a large-scale public art light installation created by Yvette Mattern. The artwork beams seven rays of laser light representing the color spectrum of a natural rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. These lights, which reach up to 70 miles in the sky, are a message of unity to the entire community in Tulsa.
During a visit in the warmer months of the year, guests will have the option to enjoy paddle boats, kayaks, and canoes on Peggy’s Pond from ONEOK Boathouse.
As long as the weather is good, boats will be available for free rental on a first come first serve basis from 2:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Monday – Friday, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Keeping with the artistic influence of Gathering Place, each available canoe has been wrapped with the artwork of a local artist.
Life jackets are included with the boat and must be worn at all times. Participants must five years or older to ride and there is no lifeguard on duty.
A Sign of Changing Times
Gathering Place is just one of many additions added to Tulsa to improve the city’s community and reputation. The OKPOP museum is dedicated to showcasing Oklahoma’s many contributions to American pop culture.
Gathering Place seems to be Tulsa’s most successful venture in changing the city’s reputation for the better, having won first place in USA Today’s 10 Best Reader’s Choice Awards in the Best New Attraction category.
Gathering Place is open every day from 9 AM to 8 PM. Gathering Place provides free shuttle transportation from three areas in Downtown Tulsa.
Shuttles come by every 15 minutes and are available to use only on the weekends (Friday to Sunday).