Gathering Place is a day old, but here is a safe bet: Nothing in this verdant, 66.5-acre jewel is going to be more popular — and potentially more impactful — than the concrete dips and curves of the skate park and pump tracks.
It’s aaaaaawesome, as the kids say.
“I got here right when the skate park opened,” Dravin Groove Hallford, 23, said early Saturday afternoon. “It is good to see all these people out here having fun.”
“It almost seems too nice for Tulsa,” said Jack Heaberlin, 15.
Before Saturday, young Tulsans had an old skate park on the west side of the river, but few other options when it came to public facilities for skateboarding, BMX biking and riding a scooter. Now they have one of the best facilities in the country.
“I think it hit right on the sweet spot of exactly what I was hoping for,” Hallford said.
Located next to the park’s south entrance at 31st Street and Riverside Drive, the skate park and pump track was abuzz with activity Saturday — enough activity and excitement, in fact, to almost make visitors forget that the rest of the park awaited them just up the River Parks trail to the north.
“I like it. It is really fun,” said River Douglas, 12. She was one of the young female BMX bikers tearing up the pump track Saturday. Not bad for someone who has only been at it about a year and half.
“I thought it would be big, and it’s big,” she said.
Many of the riders talked about the quality of the facilities and how they offer something for everyone, regardless of skill level.
Not that skill level was much of an issue for Jack Roop and Locke Willis-Edwards. Roop, 14, and Willis-Edwards, 13, had been shredding — is that the right word? — the skate park for a while when they stopped for a minute to rave about it.
“I have been waiting for like five years,” Willis-Edwards said. “I first read about it in 2013. I’ve been like so hyped. It is really, really, really good.”
As Willis-Edwards enthusiastically explained it, the skate park has all the elements of a quality venue, with quarter pipes, ledges, bowls and other surprises to keep it interesting and challenging.
“And then, also, the pump tracks are really fun,” he said.
Roop offered that the Gathering Place skate park and pump track may just be the best in the state.
“And there are always people here to help you,” he said.
People like Miles Rogoish, a professional BMX rider who oversaw the activities Saturday. He grew up in Tulsa during a time when young kids zipping around town on skateboards and tricked-out bikes often turned a head or two. Then he moved away to California. Now he’s back. And, oh, how Tulsa has changed.
“It’s good to see a nice area, or neighborhood, in Tulsa is going to be accommodating every type of class and give a place where kids can ride safely and keep them out of trouble,” Rogoish said. “I traveled the world because I rode a BMX bike, and being able to have this, I can only imagine how many kids are going to take advantage of it, and how many families.”
It doesn’t hurt that the facilities were put together by California Skateparks, widely recognized as one of the premier skate park construction and design firms in the world.
“They did a perfect job,” Rogoish said. “It’s really smooth. All the concrete is just right … all that.”
Hallford, who’s been riding since he was a toddler, also praised Gathering Place’s decision to go with California Skateparks.
“It’s got all the things that people like to ride on,” he said.
Then this biker dude got a little pensive, saying he was grateful for all of the people in Tulsa who are making it a better place for people like him to live and enjoy their lives.
“Keep on doing cool stuff in Tulsa,” he said. “Tulsa is a cool place to live.”