The name Scissortail Park has grown on her, but Maureen Heffernan originally thought the new urban park in downtown Oklahoma City should be called Penny Park.
“We’re standing here and it’s amazing,” she said during a tour of the in-progress 36-acre, 1,000-tree park last month. “We’re here at the park and you can see the new streetcar, the downtown library, the ballpark, the arena, the new convention center going in next door. All of these major improvements and big projects are funded through the MAPS tax, a one-cent sales tax that the public voted on to support projects that over time are reviving the city.”
Heffernan, the president and CEO of the Scissortail Park Foundation formed to run this new green space where abandoned buildings and lots once stood southwest of the city’s Bricktown District, moved to the city eight years ago to guide the Myriad Botanical Gardens, which also falls under the foundation’s oversight. She didn’t live it but she heard about the point when Oklahoma City got its wakeup call: American Airlines was considering an office here but executives visited and decided they didn’t want to live here.
Metropolitan Area Projects – or MAPS – were created in 1993 and major projects to improve the quality of life in Oklahoma City were funded with a limited term, one-cent sales tax, allowing the projects to be built debt free. Scissortail Park is part of the third iteration, MAPS3, and in December voters will decide on a fourth round.
Nearly 10 years and a lot of pennies have gone into the $132 million urban park so far, and next week’s three-day grand opening is hardly the finish line. Heffernan is thrilled to debut what she calls a cultural commons for Oklahoma City with three days of free concerts and activities, but attendees won’t yet see a finished place.
The 36 acres opening Sept. 27-29 is the north section of what will eventually be 70-acre Scissortail Park, named after the state bird. And those 36 acres are still taking shape.
“The grand ‘grand opening’ will really be in the spring, probably April, when everything is fully completed, polished and operational,” Heffernan said. “But we’ve got a great weekend planned to showcase what residents and visitors can expect at Scissortail Park – from pedal boats to public art – and we’ll be continuing programming the rest of this season.”
On Friday night, officials will open the section north of Interstate 40 and south of Myriad Botanical Gardens. They expect as many as 30,000 to pack the park for a free concert later that night featuring three bands with Oklahoma connections, including headliner Kings of Leon. The three-time Grammy winners are based in Nashville but have Oklahoma City and Talihina ties.
Saturday and Sunday offer full days of activities, art installations and fitness, and each day ends with a concert and fireworks. See the schedule below for bands and times.
Headlining concerts are on the permanent Love’s Travel Stops Stage, which faces an expansive lawn. The Great Lawn ends in the middle of this north section of the park with a hill, on the other side are features like a 3-acre lake and boathouse, an off-leash and enclosed dog park, a children’s playground and a grand promenade. In addition to the 1,000 trees planted, landscaping includes ornamental gardens and art.
An outdoor pavilion that will house a roller rink and a café will open in the spring. In 2021, the south section of the park will open. It is connected to the north park by Skydance Bridge and will have sports fields and courts, room for fitness classes and more trees, flowers and art.
“I want to make Scissortail our cultural commons for downtown,” Heffernan said. “We’ll continue to bring in interesting music but we’ll also bring lectures, dance, theater, discussions, movies. This is a place for people to gather and discover, and certainly to play and exercise, but an urban park also contributes to our mental health and civic conversations.”
Scissortail Park opening
Concerts are free and open to the public, most events are free but a few carry a fee. All events are at Scissortail Park, 300 S.W. 7th, Oklahoma City. Check https://scissortailpark.org/ for full details.
Friday, Sept. 27: 5 p.m., gates open with nearly 20 food trucks selling concessions until 11 p.m.; 6-6:30 p.m., ribbon-cutting ceremony on Love’s Travel Stops Stage; 6:30-11 p.m., performances by Broncho, Republican Hair with headliner Kings of Leon finishing the lineup; 11 p.m. fireworks.
Saturday, Sept. 28: 8-10 a.m., yoga and zumba classes on Robinson Lawn; 9 a.m.-7p.m., boat rentals; 10 a.m.-6 p.m., family-friendly live music on Robinson Lawn; 11 a.m.-10 p.m., 20 food trucks selling concessions; 11 a.m.-7 p.m. game zone; 11 a.m.-6 p.m. acoustic musicians at Scissortail Lake and Boathouse and kids activities; 12-4 p.m., community art installations with local artists; 11:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., live local music on Love’s Travel Stops Stage; 5 p.m. art contest awards presented; 6-11 p.m., Premier Starry Night Concert with Jonathan Tyler & the Northern Lights, Billy Jones Band and Markus James and the Wassonrai; 11 p.m., fireworks.
Sunday, Sept. 29: 11 a.m.-8 p.m., gates open and 15 food trucks selling concessions; 11 a.m.-7 p.m. boat rentals and game zone; 11 a.m.-6 p.m. acoustic musicians at Scissortail Lake and Boathouse and kids activities; 12-4 p.m., community art installations with local artists; 12-5:30 p.m. neighborhood showcase of local choirs and dance groups on Robinson Lawn; 5:30 p.m., OU’s Pride of Oklahoma Marching Band; 6 p.m., OKC Philharmonic Concert; 7:30 p.m., fireworks.