It was a big dream—to transform nearly 100 acres at the margins of Tulsa’s Arkansas River floodplain into a dynamic, interactive, and inviting environment with a pond, hills, unique playground equipment, and several iconic structures. Terracon’s Tulsa office is proud to have been a part of making this dream of a world-class park a reality. Gathering Place was first imagined by George Kaiser and his family foundation as a welcoming, natural space where members of diverse communities could come together to explore, learn, and play. The park opened in September 2018 and had 300,000 visitors the first month.
The Gathering Place is a public park privately funded through collaboration with more than 80 corporate and philanthropic organizations. It was designed by renowned landscape architectural firm Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc. with input from many Tulsa citizens. As with all creative designs involving the built environment, the engineering details behind the landscaping, bridges, and buildings of Gathering Place are what make it special. Terracon’s engineers partnered with the park architects to turn creative ideas into reality.
Terracon was involved early in the park’s construction during the design phase in 2013. Our team was responsible for all the geotechnical borings required for the original concept of the park, including bridges, city roadways, a lodge, boathouse, pond, and parking lots. A large amount of fill dirt was required to add topographic relief to the park, including geogrid-reinforced steep hills that were constructed from river sediments.
Understanding the scope of Gathering Place and being able to make adjustments to changing design requirements during construction were the key to success on this one-of-a-kind project.
“Gathering Place is a project that required as much, if not more, communication as a tall building project,” said Mike Homan, P.E., Tulsa office manager. Unique design elements such as the construction of tall geogridreinforced interconnected hills with slopes as steep as 1H:1V necessitated iterative design changes to facilitate revisions to pathways and buildings as the park design evolved. Homan noted that being responsive to design changes kept the project moving forward on schedule.
The park project required resources from the local Tulsa team as well as Terracon’s geotechnical engineers in Phoenix, who led the design of the geogrid-reinforced hills, and field exploration teams from three states. In addition to the design of the steep hills, Terracon collaborated in the design and construction of four land bridges that are unique in the U.S. To accommodate construction of the three-story tall boathouse and to eliminate loads on the structure, Terracon designed wire basket-faced load relief walls that were constructed next to the below-grade boathouse walls. Utilizing this approach to retain fill away from the structure resulted in a more economical design of the foundation walls of the boathouse. The team also tested unique rock anchors used to attach large slabs of cut sandstone to buildings, walls, and bridges.
Terracon’s creative solutions to the park’s design challenges, as well as its national resources, enabled us to contribute to a world-class riverfront park that welcomes Tulsans and people from everywhere.
GATHERING PLACE: A SNAPSHOT
More than 100 unique experiences to enjoy, including attractions, sports and wellness opportunities, art, and dining
- 66.5 acres now; 100 acres when complete
- 400 species of plants
- 120 feet of suspension bridges
- 13 miles of sidewalks
- 11 playground slides
- Chapman Adventure Playground
- Williams Lodge
- ONEOK Boathouse
- Skywalk Forest
For more information, visit: gatheringplace.org
Mike Homan, P.E. is a senior principal with Terracon and Tulsa office manager. His extensive experience includes providing geotechnical and construction engineering, and environmental support services to clients in the transportation, public works, commercial, industrial, petrochemical, and landfill sectors.