Despite being saved from demolition in the spring of 2022, is the Tulsa Skyride being set up to be taken out, regardless of public opinion or the enormity of the historic loss to Tulsa and Oklahoma? Why destroy more priceless Tulsa history and make Tulsa less special and unique?
Preserving the Tulsa Skyride and returning it to operation ought to be a win/win that everyone supports. Who doesn’t support it? Creative solutions are available to save the skyride and leverage this tremendous asset to its fullest advantage without being a burden on taxpayers. If a solution is not found, that outcome would likely be because there’s someone involved who is against reaching a skyride solution.
Allow Nomination to the National Register of Historic Places to Proceed Unimpeded
The Tulsa Skyride already has been deemed eligible for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places by the Oklahoma State Historic Preservation Office. The National Register nomination process is now underway. This process takes time and must be allowed to proceed unimpeded by auction, sale, or threat of demolition. Being listed on the National Register will only increase the value of the Tulsa Skyride and its significance for Tulsa and Oklahoma.
Tulsa Preservation Commission Supports Preservation of the Tulsa Skyride
The Tulsa Preservation Commission sent a letter to the Tulsa Public Facilities Authority on October 25, 2022. Excerpts from the letter include:
- “We ask that the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority consider the Skyride’s importance to Tulsa history before proceeding with its removal or sale.”
- “The Tulsa Preservation Commission recognizes the Tulsa Skyride’s significance to the city’s history and encourages the pursuit of a nomination for the skyride to the National Register of Historic Places. We ask the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority to consider allowing the nomination to be completed before proceeding with the auction or demolition of the skyride.”
Despite this, on November 22, 2022 Expo Square and the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to operate or purchase the skyride.
Tulsa Skyride Deserves Creative Solutions
As a historic treasure, the skyride warrants special consideration for a creative solution. It is not just another midway ride. It should not be regarded as competition to the midway rides. It’s the fair’s signature attraction and has been a beloved family tradition for generations. The skyride is a landmark as well as a unique experience that defines Expo Square as a special place. The skyride provides a thrilling and memorable family experience that is absolutely unique in Oklahoma. Something like this should not be thrown away.
There are lots of exciting possibilities for the skyride’s future. For the skyride to thrive and maximize its potential, including profitability, creative out-of-the-box thinking with vision is needed.
The best solution for the skyride should come from a collaboration that includes participation by the people of Tulsa, industry professionals, historic preservation experts, Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority, and Expo Square.
The call for proposals issued two days before Thanksgiving does not appear to support a collaborative effort that includes public input. The schedule is tight, extending slightly beyond the holiday season. There is no practical time available for a potential bidder from out of state to make an on-site visit to inspect the skyride.
The RFP requirements look to be rigid and unworkable, ignoring our suggested ways to cut costs for skyride operations such as taking advantage of synergies with Expo Square. For example, taking the skyride under Expo Square’s insurance would make a huge difference for an independent operator.
It almost looks like the RFP was crafted to deter serious bidders.
The most important thing right now is to preserve the Tulsa Skyride and allow completion of its nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. Finding an operator should not interfere in this process. It should be a transparent, creative process that includes active input from the public and relevant experts in addition to the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority and Expo Square. Everyone involved should publicly commit to working together to reach a great solution for the skyride’s future.