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Tulsa World editorial: Tulsa celebrates opening of Gathering Place as transformative park

Tulsa’s transformative park opening nears

The three-year mystery of what the $465 million Gathering Placelooks like will be lifted this week with a first-phase opening to include a parade and concert.

It will not disappoint.

The expansive 100-acre riverfront park, set to open publicly Saturday, has unique features around each bend highlighting Tulsa’s natural resources.

Expected to attract about 1 million visitors annually, Gathering Place adds to a revitalized Tulsa, enhancing quality-of-life options and joining a list of cities with elite parks, such as Chicago’s Millennium Park.

A decade in the making, Gathering Place was developed by the George Kaiser Family Foundation and is just minutes from downtown, along Riverside Drive between 26th and 31st streets.

The first phase of 66.5 acres holds the bulk of the construction, with a five-acre playground, lodge, boathouse, sport courts, bike and skate parks, nature trails and large lawns for concerts.

The second phase is expected to focus on relocating and expanding the Children’s Museum Discovery Lab.

Gathering Place is the largest private gift to a public park in U.S. history, with pledges totaling more than $400 million.

GKFF and the many other contributing philanthropists and corporations gave ownership to River Parks Authority, which signed a long-term lease back to an entity of the foundation.

While the scope and size of the project is impressive, it will be the details that captivate visitors.

The one-of-a-kind playground pieces were built in Germany and designed for action — a child has to do something to get something. About 350 pieces will give children a chance to run, jump, climb and explore.

The bike and skate parks offer formats of varying abilities. Gathering nooks tucked away from the large spaces are spots for seclusion.

Indigenous plants, flowers and trees line the trails. LED lights create a soft ambiance at night.

A new view of the Tulsa skyline and Arkansas River can be seen from on top of the boathouse, where visitors can order dinner and buy a drink.

Programming will be scheduled in the buildings and at various spots year-round.

To celebrate, a parade will begin at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, with a day of activities capped by a concert featuring The Roots at 5 p.m.

Tulsa is fortunate to have the vision and leadership for this gift — a gathering place for everyone.

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