River Parks West Festival Park Reopens
RENOVATIONS COMPLETED: Matt Meyer, executive director of River Parks Authority, shakes hands with Mayor Dewey Bartlett during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Sept. 18 to mark the re-opening of River Parks West Festival Park. Also pictured, to the right of Mayor Bartlett, City Councilor Jeannie Cue, County Commissioner Karen Keith, Robin Ballenger, with River Parks Authority, and Steve Bertone, managing director of Linde Engineering.
EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers
On Sept. 18, River Parks Authority opened the newly-renovated River West Festival Park, 2100 South Jackson Ave.
Matt Meyer, executive director of River Parks Authority, was very complimentary of the renovation project’s general contractor, Tri-Star Construction . “When the 2014 Oktoberfest ended, they were ‘waiting at the gate’ to begin work. They have been attentive to the project schedule throughout, enabling us to hold the 2015 ScotFest and Linde Oktoberfest Tulsa without any delays. We are excited to unveil these new park improvements to the thousands of area residents who enjoy River Parks facilities year round,” he said.
The Festival Park first opened to the public in the spring of 1985, a year and a half after the completion of Zink Dam. That opening featured the first of many performances on the floating stage, where outdoor concerts by popular artists were a staple during the late 1980s and 1990s. The Festival Park also became home to Tulsa’s most popular fall festival, Linde Oktoberfest Tulsa, as well as major events such as ScotFest and FreedomFest.
With time, the Festival Park’s facilities became worn and an explosion of entertainment venues in the Tulsa area drew music entertainers to indoor venues where unpredictable weather was not a challenge. An increase in major festivals held at the park also rendered the site’s storage insufficient, resulting in the need to use mobile storage containers. Space for festival administration and parking was also lacking.
Tulsa voters approved the Festival Park renovation as part of the 2006 City of Tulsa Third Penny Sales Tax Program. Designed by the local office of Dewberry, the $5.5 million renovation addressed deficiencies and features elements that will better serve existing festivals and hopefully attract new ones. With demolition of the old amphitheater seating area, Tulsa’s downtown skyline is now “front and center” as the backdrop of a new performance platform and overlook that replaces the floating stage. lighting on the river side of the platform will allow seasonal displays of color and draw attention to this recreational area for everyday use by Tulsa families.
A new circular entrance drive improves park access and offers display opportunities for festival-related banners, inflatables, or art. From the entrance, lighted sidewalks offer paths to parking, the performance platform and other facilities. The portion of the park’s recreational trail that runs through the Festival Park and north to the 11th Street Bridge now meets the dual trail standard found throughout most of River Parks.
Festival Park improvements have been aided by release of a “no build zone” by Westport on the River on the north, as well as a generous easement by Mid-Continent Concrete, the park’s neighbor to the south. These actions paved the way for the construction of new parking, a playground and restroom on the park’s north side, and a significant expansion of parking on the south side that includes a tree-lined median. Also new is a festival storage and office building, located alongside the park’s long-time tenant, the Sooner Rowing Association. The new building provides office space for use during festivals and events, as well as more accessible and efficient storage for supplies and equipment. Electrical and water service for the 14-acre site have also been improved to better serve vendors and entertainment areas, and the irrigation system has been upgraded to provide greater coverage for turf areas. The site’s irrigation water continues to be well water, a “green” cost-saving measure that aid’s the park system’s operational budget.