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River Parks, Community Donors and George Kaiser Family Foundation partner on transformational park for Tulsa

Numerous donors and George Kaiser Family Foundation gift $350MM public park to Tulsa Community

TULSA, Okla., Aug. 14, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- River Parks Authority, a local public trust in the Tulsa community, today announced a historic partnership with George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF) on the future Gathering Place for Tulsa. Under the agreement, GKFF will give ownership of the park to River Parks Authority and will ensure ongoing operation, maintenance and programming for the life of the park, which is expected to open in late 2017. The $350 million gift, combining land, design, construction costs and operating, security, maintenance and programming costs for the lifetime of the park – the total commitment is being funded by GKFF and numerous corporate and community philanthropists. 

River Parks Authority, a local public trust in Tulsa, today announced a historic partnership with George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF) on the future Gathering Place for Tulsa. Under the agreement, GKFF will give ownership of the park to River Parks Authority and will ensure ongoing operation, maintenance and programming for the life of the park, which is expected to open in late 2017.

A Gathering Place for Tulsa is a planned park designed by world-renowned landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh (MVVA), who also designed the Brooklyn Bridge Park and the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, among other notable projects. Upon completion, the design transforms nearly 100 acres of waterfront along the Arkansas River into a vibrant and recreational gathering place for the community. According to a 2012 Forbes article, the previous largest gift to a public park was $100 million to the Central Park Conservancy in New York.

"This generosity is likely the largest public park gift ever made," said Matt Meyer, executive director of Tulsa River Parks Authority. "The immense generosity of GKFF and community donors brings a unique opportunity to partner with the foundation to manage, maintain and improve the park for many years to come. City and County citizens will experience the benefits of our transformed riverfront for generations."   

As part of Thursday's announcement, GKFF and partnering donors are giving the park to the Tulsa River Parks Authority which has agreed to enter into a 100 year self-perpetuating agreement with a dedicated GKFF entity to manage the long-term operations, maintenance, security and programming of the park. The agreement allows for the public trust to own the park while guaranteeing citizens the park will be properly managed, maintained and improved upon by a privately funded entity for years to come.

"The transformation over the next three years of Tulsa's riverfront into a world-class gathering place for all of our citizens will provide a tremendous boost to the economic and cultural health of Tulsa," said Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett. "On behalf of the citizens of Tulsa we want to thank GKFF and the many private donors who believe in this vision for Tulsa. This gift will provide enjoyment for my children and my children's children. We are witnessing how a public-private partnership should work with all of us cooperating to ensure this park is a well-managed and professionally operated asset for generations of Tulsans to enjoy."

A Gathering Place will provide an expansion of recreational and education opportunities associated with the River Parks system in Tulsa. The planned park will feature engaging aspects including a 5-acre playground for children of all ages, lodge for community gathering and activities, interactive water play areas, a boathouse for social and educational space, large green spaces for recreation and gathering, and two massive land bridges that will seamlessly unify the park with the broader River Parks system. The unique park plans evolved from 1,400 ideas submitted from Tulsa citizens in six community meetings over the course of three years.

"The current River Parks system is a major asset to Tulsa and contributes greatly to the community's quality of life," said Jeff Stava, project manager. "River Parks does an exceptional job managing the system and is widely praised and respected as the top park in our community. GKFF looks forward to working with them to construct this new riverfront park. Over 40 corporations and local philanthropists have come together to join the cause and make this transformative park a reality for the Tulsa community."    

The official groundbreaking celebration for the park is set for September 20 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with a community-wide celebratory event.

Visit www.agatheringplacefortulsa.com to learn more, view designs, renderings and follow the latest news and updates about the project.

About A Gathering Place for Tulsa
A project of George Kaiser Family Foundation, A Gathering Place for Tulsa will transform nearly 100 acres of Tulsa's waterfront along the Arkansas River into a dynamic and active space when the project is completed. 66.5 acres will be completed within Phase I by late 2017. The park will be a central place for Tulsans to gather and enjoy for years to come. The park will blend nature and urban entertainment and will include features such as a lodge, boathouse, nature walks, two land bridges connecting the two sides of river parks, sporting areas and a pond. A Gathering Place for Tulsa is funded by a mix of corporate and philanthropic Tulsa organizations.

Current donors include: Williams Cos., $16 million; QuikTrip, $12.5 million; Chapman Foundations, $10 million; ONEOK, $10 million.

$5 million: Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation; Magellan Midstream Partners; Nadel and Gussman LLC; FW Murphy Family Foundation; Charles and Peggy Stephenson; Helmerich Trust; Joe Craft; Bob and Debbie Zinke.

$3 million: Kathy S. Craft; Unit Corp.; Laredo Petroleum. $2 million: Zarrow Foundations.

$1.5 million: Thomas Families, William and Susan, Jill and Robert; John Steele Zink Foundation; Omni Air International. 

$1 million Bumgarner Family Foundation; J.E. and L.E. Mabee Foundation; Stephen and Shelley Jackson Family Foundation; Grace and Franklin Bernsen Foundation; Stuart Price; Pam and Tom Russell.

Other significant donors to the Gathering Place project include John and Sarah Graves; Ernie and Jane Ann Maconi Kivisto; the Chickasaw Nation, Peter M. Walter and John Smith.

A Gathering Place for Tulsa is doing business as Tulsa's Gathering Place, LLC. To learn more about the project, visit www.agatheringplacefortulsa.com.

About River Parks
Offering the best in outdoor recreation, River Parks' 26 miles of asphalt-surfaced trails weave past gathering areas, playgrounds, fountains and sculptures along the banks of the Arkansas River in Tulsa. Additionally, River Parks owns and leases hundreds of acres reserved for wildlife habitation and land preservation. River Parks also controls the water levels of portions of the Arkansas River using the gates of the Zink Dam. River Parks' mission is to maintain, preserve, develop, and promote the Arkansas River and adjacent land areas under the Authority's jurisdiction within Tulsa County for the economic and cultural benefit of the community. River Parks vision is to be the region's premier park, recreation, and entertainment destination. For more information, visit http://www.riverparks.org/.

About Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates
Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc. (MVVA) is a landscape architecture firm that creates environmentally sustainable and experientially rich places across a wide range of landscape scales, from city to campus to garden. Founded in 1982, MVVA maintains offices in Brooklyn, New York and Cambridge, Massachusetts. Working closely with urban planners, architects, engineers, and ecologists, MVVA has emerged as an innovative leader of multidisciplinary urban design teams. The firm's collaborative approach ensures that the experience of MVVA's built landscapes grows from, and is supported by, outstanding environmental performance, financial resourcefulness, technical innovation, and material expression. This integrated design methodology allows the firm to synergistically leverage opportunities that arise throughout the design process. MVVA's designed landscapes are the result of great enthusiasm for the craft of building, resulting in wide acclaim from clients, critics, and the public. The firm's projects have received numerous honors including awards from the American Society of Landscape Architects, the American Planning Association, the U.S. National Park Service, the Municipal Arts Society of New York City, the Royal Architecture Institute of Canada, the Institute of Transportation Engineers, the Building Stone Institute, the Waterfront Center, Places/EDRA, Progressive Architecture, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  For more information, visit http://www.mvvainc.com

About George Kaiser Family Foundation 
George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF) is a charitable organization dedicated to providing equal opportunity for young children in our community through investments in early childhood education, community health, social services and civic enhancement. Based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, GKFF works primarily on initiatives developed in collaboration with Tulsa-based direct service organizations. For more information about George Kaiser Family Foundation, visit www.gkff.org.

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