Tulsa Preservation Commission weighs in on Skyride controversy


By John Dobberstein, Editor

The Tulsa Preservation Commission told Tulsa County’s Public Facilities Authority that it has “concern” about the planned auction of the Tulsa Skyride at Expo Square.

In a letter dated Oct. 25, TPC asked TCPFA board members to, “consider the skyride’s importance to Tulsa history before proceeding with its removal or sale.

“The Tulsa Skyride is historically significant to our city and state because of its association with the Tulsa State Fair and the International Petroleum Exposition,” said TPC chairman James E. Turner, “and as one of few original aerial gondola systems manufactured by the Swiss company Von Roll Ironworks remaining in the United States.”

One month ago, 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 would be posted on ExpoSquare.com by Oct. 31, although no information has been posted yet.

"We found solutions to all reasons given to remove the Skyride. So currently there are countless reasons to keep it and zero reasons to get rid of it," said Scott Martin, a producer who is currently filming a documentary about the history of Bell’s Amusement Park and the community’s effort to save the Skyride. "Any further inquiries into demolition before the fixes are implemented feels highly inappropriate."

Martin and the Save Our Tulsa Skyride group unveiled a list of potential solutions to the Skyride's operating future. 

Relocating a ropeway is considered a new installation. All new installations must comply with the current codes and standards that regulate ropeways in the U.S. 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.

Earlier this year the Oklahoma State Historic Preservation Office issued a preliminary opinion determining the Skyride is eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places under entertainment/recreation and engineer criteria.

“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,” Turner wrote. “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.”

The TCPFA and Tulsa County public relations officer did not respond to requests for comment Friday on the letter.

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