Decision looming on Tulsa Skyride, auction for ‘operation or sale’ planned this month
By John Dobberstein, Editor
For supporters determined to save the the Tulsa State Fair Skyride from sale or demolition, crunch time is rapidly approaching.
Amanda Blair, chief operating officer for the Tulsa State Fair, confirmed Monday that the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority plans to put the Skyride “on a public auction to bid for operation of or sale” by the end of October.
Blair said information on the process will be posted on ExpoSquare.com by Oct. 31.
When asked what is meant by taking bids “for operation of or sale” Blair said the Authority will consider all options for the ride’s future.
“Over the next few weeks we will review the information we received during the fair and (supporters) will have the same opportunity to submit during the official process.”
There have been rumors of what might come in place of the Skyride if it is removed, such as bathrooms or a barn. Blair would not say specifically if any buildings or land improvements have been discussed or proposed.
“All options are considered. There is no firm proposed utilization at this time,” she said.
The group Save Our Skyride Tulsa has presented several ideas for possibly increasing revenue associated with the ride to keep it operating.
In August, the Skyride was deemed to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places by the Oklahoma Historical Society State Historic Preservation Office.
This step with the National Register, “underscores the skyride's historic significance and that the Skyride is worth preserving,” said Scott Martin, a producer who is currently filming a documentary about the history of Bell’s Amusement Park. The documentary will include the community’s effort to save the Skyride.
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Opening in 1965, the Skyride has received about $500,000 in improvements since the Tulsa State Fair purchased the skyride from Bell’s Amusement Park for $600,000 in 2007.
Relocating a ropeway is considered to be a new installation. All new installations must comply with the current codes and standards that regulate ropeways in the United States. The Von Roll skyrides are grandfathered in that they may remain in operation only in their current location.
If a Von Roll skyride were to be relocated it would not meet the current design codes. Replacing it with a new Skyride would cost an estimated $6 million to $8 million.
Save Our Skyride Tulsa is suggesting the Authority:
- 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, such as merchandising or sponsorships.
- 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, the group said. 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 (such as special events, private rentals, operation similar to OKC Wheeler Ferris Wheel, the group said).
- 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.
- Feature the Skyride prominently on the Tulsa State Fair website and in Tulsa State Fair commercials. The Skyride is the fair’s signature attraction.
- Operations and maintenance: The previous operator, Don McClure of DMC Tulsa, is willing to facilitate, in any way needed, a way forward to continue skyride operations, the group said. “This could lead to his return or to bringing in another qualified operator,” the group adds.
- Parts and service support is available from Doppelmayr, billed as a world leader in the ropeway industry.
“As long as there are solutions to the two objections the fairgrounds has on the Skyride the auction is highly inappropriate,” Martin said. “Auction or demolition is a last resort, looking into it while known solutions are left on the table is not acting in good faith or acting in the best interest of the owners of the Skyride.
“Taxpayers own 100% of it and they should have the say. The Skyride can’t become a burden on tax payers but the solutions offered by the Skyride group can solve the objections without burdening the taxpayers.”
Great article. Thanks for keeping up with the decision on the Sky Ride.