There is excitement brewing in Tulsa bubbling through the whispers of a highly anticipated new park — Gathering Place. There are no simple swing sets paired with a humdrum slide. Even describing it as a park is almost a misnomer. Tasked to market and explain such a distinctive and innovative place is a woman with a unique story of her own, TU alumna and Vice President of Marketing at Gathering Place Amanda Murphy (BA ’05).
What is Gathering Place?
The 100-acre world-class riverfront park is designed with every Tulsan in mind. From curious toddlers to gnarly skateboarders, the vibrant and inclusive public space engages, educates and energizes. “It’s a public park which means it’s free, and all of the programming will be free as well. But it’s much more like a theme park with a lot of attractions,” Murphy said. “It’s going to redefine what everyone thinks of when they think of a traditional public park.”
- Chapman Adventure Playground is a five-acre playground with a Ramble Sensory Garden, a Fairyland Forest, a Land of River Giants and much more. Each area is tailored to an array of developmental levels and physical abilities.
- ONEOK Boathouse features a fine dining restaurant with affordable prices, incredible views of Tulsa, meeting spaces and even places to check out canoes, paddleboats and kayaks.
- Williams Mist Mountain includes interactive water fountains, leaping jets, water cannons, and, of course, mist areas.
- Semgroup Sports Courts is the place to play basketball, volleyball, street soccer and street hockey.
- Skate Park features beginner through advanced courses.
Those are merely a hint of the places to explore at Gathering Place. “When planning the park, the developers thought about visitors from birth to senior citizens,” Murphy said.
How did Gathering Place originate?
The George Kaiser Family Foundation understood the need for an extraordinary place for all Tulsans to congregate. “We needed something that was unifying for our city, and that’s why it’s named Gathering Place,” Murphy said. Parks also boost the economy. “We didn’t want to see people and companies leaving Tulsa, and we want to retain talented Tulsans and attract more people to the city, she said.”
Gathering Place will be a destination. Known for designing presidential libraries and the Brooklyn Bridge Park, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates was the landscape architect for the park. “The buildings and attractions flow seamlessly with the landscape. Nothing detracts from the natural aspect that you feel here,” Murphy explained. “There is nothing like this in the United States.”
Gathering Place is even breaking records: “This $465 million public-private partnership represents the largest private gift to a public park in U.S. history,” Murphy said.
Amanda Murphy Gets Outdoorsy
A few years ago, this outdoors and parks enthusiast could be found indoors. Murphy was never the kid camping in the great outdoors with her family. After graduating from TU as a communications and Spanish major, Murphy embarked on an adventure that ended with a breath of fresh outdoor air.
Growing up in Tulsa, TU was Murphy’s college choice. As a student, she gravitated toward communications by dabbling in journalism and working at TUTV. “Every single professor that I had there was so invested in me, my success and my experience,” she added. “I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”
After graduation, Murphy went on to earn two master’s degrees: master of science in management and organization at Northwestern University and master of arts in new media studies at DePaul University. However, Murphy still had a dream to fulfil. “I was determined at some point in my life that I had to be in Maine,” she said. She started e-marketing for The Jackson Laboratory, a biomedical research institution in Bar Harbor, Maine, which is on Mount Desert Island off the coast of Maine.
Murphy seemed destined for Maine because in Acadia National Park, she fell in love with the outdoors. “Having outdoor experiences completely changed my whole world. I hadn’t had that growing up,” Murphy explained. “It changed my whole perspective on life, and I knew I had to change my field.”
A New Career
Murphy began working for Outward Bound, a world-wide leader in providing experience-based outdoor learning and leadership programs for youth and adults. While in Maine, Murphy jumped on the water to participate in an Outward Bound expedition. “We were on an open boat for seven days. It pushes you to do more than you ever think that you can do,” she said. “It’s all about building resilience and grit.
Murphy’s career goal is to connect the public with an outdoor experience that encourages them to find a deeper meaning by immersing themselves in nature. Gathering Place takes it one step further by promoting positive social interactions in a beautiful outdoor environment. “One thing that I would leave people with is Gathering Place is truly for everyone from every walk of life.”