TULSA, Okla. — Something many consider to be a historic Tulsa landmark may soon be nothing more than scrap metal.
Expo square announced Friday it intends to auction and likely demolish the historic Skyride on its grounds.
For those who know the ride well, the Skyride is as much a historic structure as it is a convoluted, political web surrounding the removal of a popular amusement park over 15 years ago.
“It’s an architectural marvel,” Scott Martin said. “To see how they could raise those towers, obviously you have to have some good cranes in there.”
Martin shared FOX23 footage he found of Expo Square’s historic Skyride being built nearly 60 years ago.
“In the 1960s, that had to be a sight to see,” Martin said.
It’s all part of a documentary he’s working on, “Paving Paradise,” about the former Bell’s Amusement Park. Bell’s called Expo Square home until its abrupt closure and eviction by Tulsa County, which owns and operates Expo Square, in 2006.
“It was just there one day, people went, it closed, and it was gone,” Martin said.
The Skyride was the only remnant of Bell’s to remain. It was purchased and operated by Expo Square in the years following the park’s closure.
“It was going to be torn down, and it was saved by activists,” Martin said.
After a fatal accident on the ride in 2015, Expo Square contracted an out-of-state company to operate it in accordance with higher safety standards.
But the contract with that company ended after the 2019 Tulsa State Fair, and the ride hasn’t operated since.
On Friday, expo square officials confirmed they do not plan to operate the ride any longer.
“All I can think about is this is sort of like 2006 when Bell’s went away,” Martin said.
Officials with Expo Square say the county plans to auction and demolish the remnants of the ride in the coming weeks.
They cited high operating costs and low revenue as the reason behind the closure.
But that hasn’t always been the case.
“Nothing came close to grossing the kind of dollars that the skyride did,” said Robby Bell--whose family owned and operated the Skyride as part of their former Bell’s Amusement Park.
“With Bell’s at the fairground and where the Skyride was located, it was a tremendous asset to customers,” Bell said. “They kind of used it like a shuttle with a view.”
Of course with Bell’s long gone, he’s not surprised it’s not financially stable anymore.
“The big skyride dumps into what? An empty parking lot,” he said.
FOX23 told you last fall when bell announced plans to reopen his park at a site in broken arrow. He says those plans are moving forward, but when it comes to the possibility of relocating the Skyride to his new park, the cost may just not be worth it.
“It would be astronomical,” Bell said.
And that has people like martin looking back —
“Looking at hindsight of what happened to Bell’s and all the things that were said as the reasons… it gets extremely political,” Martin said.
— Looking back at what could have been.
“I may not have a chance to go on it again, just like nobody had a chance at Bell’s,” he said.
Several community members have reached out to fox23 expressing their interest in taking legal action to save the ride. We will continue to follow any developments and keep you updated.
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