Friends of the Tulsa Skyride earlier today submitted the following outline for skyride solutions to the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority and Expo Square. A pressing concern is Expo Square’s stated intention to put the skyride for sale on auction in mid-October. Putting the skyride up for auction could lead to outcomes that result in the demolition of the skyride before solutions are explored and before the process of the skyride’s nomination to the National Register of Historic Places is completed.
The outline for skyride solutions addresses all issues stated in Expo Square’s May 2022 press release for justifying the pursuit of imminent skyride demolition back then. There are real solutions available. The skyride is a tremendous asset for Tulsa and Oklahoma.
Putting the skyride on auction should only be considered as an absolutely final option. Listing the skyride on the National Register of Historic Places should bring great benefits to Tulsa and Oklahoma. The nomination process should be allowed to be completed. Let’s all join together to save the skyride, not destroy it. Contact the fair board today to respectfully express your support for the Tulsa Skyride.
Tulsa Skyride Solutions
October 4, 2022
The Tulsa State Fair Skyride is a historic Tulsa treasure. It is one of only ten remaining Von Roll skyrides in the United States and one of only three at US state fairs. Von Roll skyrides were introduced to the United States by Walt Disney. The skyride is an underappreciated gem and valuable asset for Tulsa and Oklahoma. Whatever obstacles that it may face at present all have real solutions.
The Tulsa Skyride provides a thrilling, unforgettable experience for the entire family, an experience not found anywhere else in the state of Oklahoma. Generations of Tulsans have grown up riding the Tulsa Skyride as a family tradition since 1965.
Friends of the Tulsa Skyride is an informal group of skyride supporters who wish to open a conversation with the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority for the purpose of saving the Tulsa Skyride. Our group includes members with experience and in-depth knowledge of Von Roll skyrides covering all aspects, including history, maintenance, and operation. We have numerous contacts in the ropeway and amusement industries. We hope to participate in a transparent process with public input to find a solution for keeping Tulsa’s skyride. Our desire is to return the skyride to service without it becoming a burden on taxpayers. This should be a win/win for all.
We ask that no actions be taken that jeopardize the skyride’s future before all options to save the skyride have been explored and full due diligence has been done.
An auction that Expo Square announced for mid-October could result in an outcome that closes off all paths to keeping the skyride. Any such auction should only be scheduled as an absolute last resort.
The Tulsa Skyride has been deemed eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The Oklahoma State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) issued this preliminary opinion in August 2022. The SHPO has indicated that they are willing to assist the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority with information about the process and benefits.
The SHPO’s preliminary opinion of eligibility for the National Register implies that the skyride is worthy of preservation. Tulsa’s response should not be to put the skyride on an irreversible path to destruction before even allowing the National Register nomination process to be completed. Listing the skyride on the National Register of Historic Places will greatly increase recognition of the skyride’s importance. It will significantly boost the skyride’s appeal to tourists as a key Route 66 attraction and open up opportunities for financial support for the skyride.
The outline of our plan for skyride solutions is on the next page. We can supply full details for all points covered in the outline.
Tulsa Skyride Outline for Solutions
- Retain skyride under Tulsa County ownership and hire a qualified operator.
- Identify cost savings (examples include covering the skyride under Tulsa County’s property and general liability insurance, workers’ compensation, general and administrative expenses, etc.).
- Add income sources, e.g. merchandising, sponsorships, etc.
- Seek funding assistance through historic preservation sources: Tulsa Skyride is already eligible for funding opportunities with the approved preliminary opinion from the State Historic Preservation Office. Greater funding opportunities will be available once the skyride has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.
- Set up a non-profit foundation to support the skyride (or a larger foundation for the entire fair).
- Explore increasing the skyride’s utilization: many creative possibilities exist beyond the fair (e.g. special events, private rentals, operation similar to OKC Wheeler Ferris Wheel, etc.).
- Work to increase fair attendance and length of stay.
- Improve crowd traffic patterns during the fair to drive more business to each skyride station.
- Expand ticketing options such as online ticket sales, inclusion of skyride in combo ticket bundles, etc.
- Highlight the skyride in Tulsa and Oklahoma tourism campaigns. When the skyride is on the National Register of Historic Places, it could be a game changer. The skyride’s historic significance will draw in many more visitors.
- Tie the skyride in with the Golden Driller, Route 66, etc. to increase synergy with those nearby attractions.
- Advertise the skyride! It has not been advertised for decades, if ever.
- Feature the skyride prominently on the Tulsa State Fair website and in Tulsa State Fair commercials. The skyride is the fair’s signature attraction.
- Embrace and celebrate the skyride like never before! It’s a Tulsa treasure whose potential is largely unrecognized.
Operations and Maintenance
- The previous operator, Don McClure of DMC Tulsa LLC, reports maintaining a good relationship with county officials and Expo Square. He is willing to facilitate, in any way needed, a way forward to continue skyride operations. This could lead to his return or to bringing in another qualified operator.
- Parts and service support is available from Doppelmayr, world leader in the ropeway industry.
- We will be happy to answer questions and address any issues not covered above.
- We are ready to provide additional detail about all items listed above.
Please save Tulsa’s cherished skyride!
If the skyride were demolished before the process for being listed on the National Register of Historic Places is completed, it would be a lost opportunity that could never be replaced. It would be a genuine loss for Tulsa and Oklahoma. Don’t demolish it. Let’s save it!
Let’s all work together to save the historic Tulsa skyride! Thank you.