Tony Moore, executive park director of Tulsa’s Gathering Place, got his start in the industry right out of high school as an operations host for SeaWorld. He also worked at Universal Studios Florida and was chief operations officer at the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Florida. We caught up with Moore and got his thoughts on …
… his path to Tulsa.
It was during my time at the Lowry Park Zoo that I first received a call from a head hunter telling me about a new park called Gathering Place, opening in about three years in Oklahoma. I must be honest in saying that I had never heard of the park before or the George Kaiser Family Foundation, and I had never considered moving to Mid-America, Oklahoma. I clearly remember thinking to myself that this was probably not an ideal job or park for me. But the more I learned about the foundation and its civic and social impact, the more I became interested. After some brief discussions, I agreed to visit Tulsa. Seeing really is believing. After my first visit, I was blown away and extremely impressed by what the foundation did as an organization and its heartfelt love and contributions to the citizens of Tulsa.
… his evolving schedule.
There are two completely different phases and responsibilities in going from building a park to that of operating a park. So my job as an operator [before the park opening] was primarily understanding the guest interface and utility component of the park, and understanding who would ultimately be our guests. My day-to-day schedule during the first year of operations is a very dynamic one. You have to work hard in establishing your desired brand of employee work culture [and in] establishing a new culture of guest services – ensuring that your guest experiencing a free park is treated in the same manner they would for a paid experience. One of the biggest challenges with my day-to-day scheduling is finding sufficient time between civic and administrative work to get hands-on out in the park.
… preconceived notions of Oklahoma.
I am embarrassed in saying that I had more of a rural expectation of Tulsa and was surprised by what I saw. While yes, the state has plenty of natural and beautiful rural topography, it does not define the state. There is really so much to see and do here in the great outdoors.
… his job’s most rewarding moment.
Without hesitation, our opening weekend [in September]. Mind you, I’ve been part of massive grand openings events before – projects costing north of the $465 million price tag for this project – but I’ve never seen this much invested for the sole cause of unifying a city and a people.
… his horizon.
I’m excited about the opening of the state’s sister park in Oklahoma City, Scissor Tail Park – excited to see what the rising tide of two world-class parks will do for the state of Oklahoma and for our tourism sector. I’m excited about our 2019 programming and special events calendar and all the awesome festivals, concerts and shows that we will offer for free, and I’m excited about our phase two construction and the start of our children’s museum.