First phase of ‘destination park’ in Broken Arrow moves forward, natatorium being discussed


A rendering of phase one for Elam Park, a destination park planned for southwest Broken Arrow.

By John Dobberstein, Editor

Construction of a large community park in southwest Broken Arrow took a first step Tuesday, as city councilors approved a $4.3 million contract for work to begin on phase one of Elam Park.

The first phase of the $40 million Elam Park master plan will include a “giant” playground, restrooms, a sitting area, tree grove, parking and a drive into the park, said Matt Hendren, director of parks and recreation for Broken Arrow.

The City Council also voted to partner with the Broken Arrow Public Schools on a study for a natatorium -- which may also be located at Elam Park -- that includes a needs analysis, conceptual plan and operational cost analysis.

The $61,450 study will be split between the city and BAPS, totaling $30,725.00 for each side. The park would be located north of Florence Street, between Aspen and Olive avenues. 

In August 2018, Broken Arrow voters approved $3 million general obligation (GO) bond to develop a new park in southwest Broken Arrow. In May 2019, the Broken Arrow Municipal Authority swapped approximately 39 acres of property located within the northern reaches of the city's Events Park with the Broken Arrow School District for approximately 53 acres near Florence Street, between Aspen Avenue and Olive Avenue.

Later that year the City Council approved a contract with Olsson Inc. to design a master plan for the entire 53-acre park, and to recommend a portion of work to be completed in phase 1.

In 2020, the City Council established a “Southwest Park Advisory Committee” to work with Olsson to develop the master plan for Elam Park, which included a recreation center and natatorium.

This led to discussions between the city and BAPS about potentially partnering to build and operate a natatorium for school district and community use.

Back in 2015, voters approved a $370 million BAPS bond issue that included $39 million for improvements to the Kirkland Activity Complex at Lynn Lane Road and Detroit Street. Those improvements included renovations to the current auditorium and gymnasium, repurposing Kirkland Field as the Kirkland Soccer Complex, and constructing a facility that would house an Olympic-size swimming pool for district and community use.

While BAPS will have $35 million available to build a competitive swimming pool in the spring of 2025, the city isn’t scheduled to present the next GO bond program to the public until 2027. Broken Arrow City Manager Michael Spurgeon said a natatorium could be placed in the anticipated 2027 bond program in the parks-and-recreation category, but it would take several years to accumulate the funds needed to build it.

The BAPS’ current bond language also requires the swimming facility to be constructed at the Kirkland Activity Center.

The city said BAPS is considering presenting a bond language change to the people for their consideration making it possible to use the district’s bond funding to construct the swimming facility at Elam Park to partner with the city.

Spurgeon said he believes the BAPS change request to bond language would allow the natatorium to be built anywhere in the school district, including Elam Park.

City Councilor Scott Eudey noted there is no facility in Oklahoma that is functional for competitive swimming, and a natatorium could potentially bring competitors from schools and universities throughout the state and region to spend money in the city.

Hendren said the study will take about 6 months to complete and there should be opportunities for Broken Arrow residents to provide input.

Construction of the park’s first phase will take 330 days, and crews from Voy Construction of Tulsa will get started in 45-60 days. “If the overall park is close to what this (first phase) will be, it’s going to be incredible,” Hendren said.

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