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Tulsa's New Water Playground

By Elizabeth Shreeve, MLA, principal, SWA Group, Sausalito, Calif., and Keith Franklin, president, LandPlan Consultants, Tulsa, Okla.

41st Street Plaza in Tulsa, Okla. is a three-acre park by the Arkansas River that opened April 2009. A children’s water-play area offers six interactive fountains. This triangular splash pad has 19 computer-controlled “choreoswitches” that cycle on and off to produce interactive fun.
Photo: LandPlan Consultants

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Combining innovative playground elements with unique interactive fountains, Tulsa’s new 41st Street Plaza goes “all the way to cool” for kids of all ages. Officially opened in May 2009, the 41st Street Plaza project began when QuikTrip Corp. of Tulsa decided to commemorate their 50th anniversary by creating a new signature gathering area within Tulsa’s River Parks system.


Phase 1 of 41st Street Plaza includes the children’s water garden, plus pavilions, a playground and landscape connecting upgraded trails. SWA Group provided conceptual and schematic design in conjunction with Bing Thom Architects, before handing off final drawings and implementation to LandPlan Consultants, a Tulsa design firm.
Photo: SWA Group


“River Parks is the one thing everyone in the city of Tulsa has in common,” observes Chet Cadieux, Quik Trip president. “It’s our front porch.”

Combining efforts with the George Kaiser Family Foundation and other donors, QuikTrip enlisted SWA Group of Sausalito, Calif. and LandPlan Consultants of Tulsa to renovate three acres of existing parkland at a key junction of trails and major streets. The resulting $2.8 million project creates a new outdoor play space with water elements, innovative play equipment, unique pyramidal berms, event and gathering areas, a picnic area adjacent to restrooms buildings, an open-air shelter and connections to River Park’s trails that extend for 22 miles along the Arkansas River.


The arching streams fountain has 40 nozzles controlled in banks of five that sequence on and off in various patterns. Computer programming allows the jets to also create a wave effect by quickly opening and closing the electrical valve.

Photo: SWA Group


Fountains Galore

The plaza’s six unique interactive fountains are proving especially popular, particularly during Tulsa’s hot summer months. Reflecting QuikTrip’s legacy of innovation, the fountains “bring the river to the kids” through a series of five interactive fountains integrated into the play area and a sixth fountain at the entry plaza. The fountains operate between May and October. The fountain designs are appealing even when the fountains aren’t operating. Each fountain offers individual features for beauty and interactive play.

  • Stepped Fountain – Water is introduced through a stainless steel grate before cascading down three steps and draining into a second stainless steel grate. Six computer controlled nozzles sequence on and off in pairs to add excitement.
  • Lazy River – This feature uses four floor-mounted jets to create a current that circulates around large round stones. The design lets children float small boats and experiment by putting their hands in the flow to alter the current.
  • Bubbler Fountain – Seven nozzles emit bubbling mounds of water that spill across the crowned surface of the fountain and ripple down the vertical sides, to be captured by stainless steel trench drains and returned to the reservoir
    for treatment.
  • Arching Streams Fountain – Forty nozzles, controlled in banks of five, sequence on and off in various patterns. Computer programming allows jets to not only cycle on and off, but also create a wave effect by quickly opening and closing the electrical valve.
  • Interactive Splash Pad – Nineteen computer-controlled “choreoswitches” cycle on and off to produce a show that is exciting to watch and a blast for the kids to play in. Each nozzle is independently controlled and capable of producing multiple effects that allow the fountain to be programmed in unexpected patterns, so that children are constantly wondering what will happen next and where the water will come from.
  • Plaza Fountain – Fourteen aerated jets on a variable speed pump dance up and down in height. Computer-controlled LED lights cycle on and off, changing color through the entire spectrum for added visual interest in the evening hours.

The shower, located between the bubbler and arching streams fountains, has a spray nozzle for the big boys and girls, and one for the more diminutive boys and girls.

To complement the fountains, the team selected Kompan playground equipment and took special care to organize age-appropriate features in proximity to each other. Fountains adjacent to play equipment for small children, for example, include the Stepped Fountain and the Lazy River, while the Interactive Splash Pad, Arching Streams and Bubbler Fountains attract the attention of the older kids and complement the more active Galaxy play equipment for five to 12-year olds. Play equipment and fountains are centered in the play area with no elevation change or barrier between them, creating a seamless transition.


The design team selected KOMPAN’S “Galaxy” play equipment series for the 5 to 12 year olds. If you’ve attended the ASLA Expo you’ve seen the “Supernova” (below, left). If you’re adventurous, you’ve attempted to stand on it and get it moving!
Photo: SWA Group


Pyramidal berms bordering the play area are also a smash hit with young and old alike. Covered in low-maintenance artificial turf and shaded by the spreading limbs of an existing ash tree, the berms were originally envisioned as a play element but now accommodate active play and relaxation as well as a comfortable vantage point for caregivers. The berms also help to separate the play area from River Park’s trails, which are heavily used by bicyclists and pedestrians.


KOMPAN’S “Elements” playground equipment was specified for the 2 to 5 year old set.
Photo: SWA Group



While 41st Street Plaza already feels like an integral part of River Parks, its design and construction were not without challenges. The project’s location and unique features required special design considerations as well as review and permits from a myriad of local, state and federal regulatory agencies. Specific issues encountered over the 24 months from conception to ribbon cutting included:

  • Oklahoma State Health Department Permitting: Recirculating water features in a public venue required permits from the Oklahoma State Health Department. Four of the project fountains produced minimal water depths (.5 to 2 inches), defining them as “wading pools” that would require barrier fences, lifeguards and several other requirements. After detailed explanations from LandPlan, however, OSDH waived the wading pool requirements.
  • 12’x12’ Concrete Arch Drainage Culvert: The required rerouting of an existing 12’x12’ arched drainage culvert left only two inches for the plaza fountain drains to slope downward into the 8,000 gallon fountain reservoir.
  • FEMA 100-Year Regulatory Floodplain: The site’s location within the FEMA 100-Year Regulatory Floodplain and the City of Tulsa Urban Regulatory Flood Plain—each at a different elevation and presenting differing municipal and federal development requirements—required special design considerations for fountain vault, 8,000-gallon reservoir, and sanitary sewer connections.
  • 404 Nationwide Permit: Separate 404 permits were required from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for over 700 linear feet of bank stabilization and storm water outflows to the Arkansas River.

The plaza railings are painted custom steel posts with square pattern insets and powder-coated (McNICHOLS Quality Perforated Metal). Blue-chip surface limestone accents the columns, walls and steps. Spectra light poles (Architectural Area Lighting) and “Bounce” fixtures (Kim Lighting) illuminate the plaza.
Photo: SWA Group


Despite these challenges, the 41st Street Plaza now serves as a popular destination in Tulsa’s community landscape, attracting families and fisherman, bird watchers, bicyclists, joggers, picnickers and folks who just want to hang out at the riverside. Last summer, the plaza provided a venue for Friday night “Rhythm on the River” performances, fulfilling its role as the new jewel along Tulsa’s riverfront.


The seven-nozzle Bubbler Fountain spills across the crowned surface of the fountain and ripples down the vertical sides to be captured by stainless steel trench drains, then returned to the reservoir
for treatment and recirculation.
Photo: SWA Group


Project: 41st Street Plaza

Client: QuikTrip Corp., Tulsa, Okla.
Agency/Owner: Tulsa River Parks Authority

Landscape Architects
SWA Group, Sausalito, California – Conceptual and Schematic Design
LandPlan Consultants, Tulsa, Oklahoma – Design Development and Construction Documents/Construction Observation

Other Consultants
Bing Thom Architects
Cyntergy AEC
Waterstore, Inc.
Kleinfelder, Inc.


The pyramid-shaped berms are made of concrete, covered with cushioning pads and topped with artificial turf (Envy Lawn). The flat concrete work is “Cochella” sand-colored concrete. The darker areas are stained a “Vintage Umber” color.
Photo: LandPlan Consultants


Manufacturers and Products
KOMPAN: Playground Equipment
DuraPlay: Playground Safety Surface
Coverall Stone: Tile for fountain features
HydroDramatics: Fountains and Pumps
Stepstone, Inc.: Pavers
ACO Polymer Products, Inc.: Fountain Drains
KIM Lighting: Site Lighting
INSIGHT Lighting: Accent Lighting
Envy Lawn: Artificial Turf Type
Xerxes Corp.: Fountain Reservoir Tank
Murdock: Drinking Fountain and Shower
Neenah Foundry: Tree Grates
Creative Pipe: Site Furniture
Urbanscape: Litter Receptacles

General Contractor
Crossland Heavy Contractors


Water is introduced into the stepped fountain through a stainless steel grate, then cascades down three steps before draining into a second stainless steel grate. Six computer controlled nozzles sequence on and off in pairs to add variety and interest.
Photo: LandPlan Consultants


Sharum Landscape: Landscape Planting
Northeastern Irrigation: Irrigation
EMC, Inc-Lighting/Electrical
Stone Mason B&B: Masonry
Southwest Greens: Artificial Turf Installer
Russell Welding: Metal Fabricator
Playground Equipment: PG Playgrounds
Collins Plumbing: General Plumbing, Some Fountain Plumbing
DuraPlay: Playground Safety Surface
Rex Playground: Litter Receptacles
Rosser Stone: Stone supplier


The Lazy River fountain has four floor-mounted jets to create a current that circulates around large river rock stones. The fountain is constructed of Seaside Pebble Quail tiles (Coverall Stone). The river rock (Rosser Stone) was ground flat and pinned with epoxy for security.
Photo: SWA Group


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October 15, 2019, 10:14 pm PDT

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