TULSA — With just four weeks remaining before Tulsa’s Gathering Place officially opens, the state-of-the-art park has begun to turn heads around the country.
The latest example, a lengthy article in the New York Times, entitled "Transforming Tulsa, Starting With a Park."
The article details the history of the park’s development, beginning with billionaire philanthropist George Kaiser and his dream of not just building a unique and wonderful playground, but something that would bring Tulsans of all races, ethnicities, backgrounds, and economic classes together.
That dream is reflected in the name itself, "A Gathering Place," as pointed out in the Times article.
The park is also intended to spark a national conversation about the city itself; its history, resources, people, arts, and lifestyle.
During a ceremony announcing the opening date of the park, Jeff Stava with the George Kaiser Family Foundation spoke with KRMG on that very topic.
“We will make a big splash for our community, and it won’t just be about the park,” Stava said. “It’ll be about all the positive things that are going on in Tulsa - downtown redevelopment, the history of art deco, the history of the oil business and the wildcatters and that philosophy that’s just kind of embedded in who we are as a community.”
[Hear the full interview by clicking here, or use the audio player at the bottom of this story]
And it’s hoped that the national spotlight will lure more families, and businesses, to the area.
It doesn’t hurt that downtown has seen about a billion dollars in construction and renovation in the last ten years, with about another billion dollars pending.
Tulsa’s also working on plans to fully develop its prime location along historic Route 66, with a $26 million visitor center called “The Route 66 Experience” slated to begin construction in coming months.
Finally, Tulsa will become the focus of ongoing racial tensions, and efforts at reconciliation, as the city marks the 100th anniversary of the race massacre of 1921.
City leaders hope to show that the city has grown more inclusive, and has dealt with its troubled past without trying to bury the truth regarding racism, segregation, and the continued disparities that exist between the different areas of town.
A Gathering Place for Tulsa opens to the public September 8th.