View Full Version : Bell's Amusement Park to close

11-14-2006, 05:06 PM
Game over: Tulsa County terminates lease with amusement park after more than 50 yearsby Ginger Shepherd
The Journal Record
Journal Record Photo (javascript:newWin=void('photo.cfm?rec id=73070','newWin','width=300,height=250'))) TULSA Ė Bellís Amusement Park opened at the Tulsa Fairgrounds Ė now the Expo Square Ė in 1951. The park opened after Robert Bell was awarded a 1950 bid to provide children-geared rides at the fairgrounds.
Now, the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority has decided not to renew the lease for the amusement park at Expo Square, giving the Bell family 120 days to remove all of the rides, slabs, and other improvements they have made to the space; additionally, the family is expected to repair any damage. Some of the reasons given to not renew the lease have ranged from the business not being financially viable to safety concerns. But those are just the reasons that current owner Robbie Bell has heard, though they arenít outlined in the Nov. 8 letter to Bell, the founderís grandson.
The letter, sent by Expo Square President Rick Bjorklund, is just a notice that the lease has been terminated. Bjorklund said the lease termination is not a surprise and any indication that it is, is just inaccurate.
He said in the last year or so, blunt language had been entered into regarding the lease but that the issue of Bellís is one that has been brewing for several years. Bjorklundís comments were limited on the subject. He has been with the county since this summer and said Expo Square lost a lot of institutional memory when its former president, Denny Tuttle, died.
With that said, Bjorklund stressed that there is ďno pleasure, no joyĒ in terminating the lease.
ďIt is simply a step in the process,Ē he said.
Now with the official letter, Bell said he is looking at all of his options and that the future is full of a lot of unknowns. Those unknowns include what Bellís will do, where it will go and what will happen to its employees.
Bell said that what he is hearing is that his business isnít financially viable, but he said that isnít the case. In the business plan that he prepared and gave to the authority, there was a letter of intent for financing that would provide funding of about $1.4 million.
ďHow do you get funding when you arenít financially viable?Ē Bell said. He added that the park entertains about 100,000 people a year.
The money would be used for improvements to the amusement park. He said Bellís had plans to replace the chain link fence with the razor-wire top, though the aging fence doesnít actually belong to the park but to the county.
Funding would also go to improve the Skyride stations as well as to update the ride, he said. Plans call for rebuilding the stations with a Swiss-type chalet. Bellís owns and operates the Skyride that crosses Expo Square during the Tulsa State Fair.
Other improvements include new rides. Bell said one of the biggest challenges the park has faced is simply the ability to grow. Bell has been in a legal battle with neighbors to build a new roller coaster; it was a battle he finally won and one of the improvements he planned to make.
Bjorklund couldnít comment on what the business plan outlined or what it contained. He said when the county received the plan, it was stamped confidential by the Bells and that the county doesnít want to be in breach of that confidentiality. He recommends that members of the public ask Bellís for a copy of it.
Regarding the viability of the plan, Bjorklund said the authority asked staff to have the plan evaluated by professionals. It was that group of professionals who said it was not a viable plan. That was the recommendation that Bjorklund gave to the authority.
When it comes to the issue of finances, Bell suspects the topic stems from the parkís reduced rent. He said the amusement park sought a reduced rate after its revenues decreased during the 2003 and 2004 state fairs.
As part of Bellís deal with the state fair, he said the county is supposed to promote the park during the fair. It seemed to Bell that wasnít occurring, and the county also built an RV park just north of Bellís parking lot. Both moves hurt the park, he said.
Bellís gross sales during the fair were down $200,000 in 2003 and again in 2004, he said, which is why the park sought the rent reduction. Bellís rent is about $135,000 and is one of the highest at Expo Square, which also leases space to the Drillers and Big Splash.
However, things were looking up for the park. Bell said in 2005 and again this year, the amusement park began promoting itself during the state fair, and its revenues rose to pre-2003 levels.
The other issue raised was the parkís safety Ė and this is upsetting to Bell, who said is park is safe and his record proves it.
Each year, the Oklahoma Department of Laborís Safety Standardís division inspects Bellís Amusement Park prior to the park opening each season, said Marion Holloway, the divisionís director. After the park is open, the agency conducts random surveillance. ďBellís has a very good safety record,Ē he said. ďWe worked very closely with park management after the park was damaged during a freak storm this year. Repairs went beyond what was needed to fix visible repairs. We have had no problems with park management not addressing safety issues in a timely manner.Ē Bjorklund said the next step is to determine what to do with the land Bellís uses. He said the county has no immediate plans.

11-14-2006, 06:45 PM
Me being a Tulsan, I really never liked Bell's. It just always seemed to be dirty, out of date, and unsafe. I certainly hope that if Bell's moves it will be under different management and make Bell's something to be proud of.

11-14-2006, 06:55 PM
This is a sad day for the hopes that Tulsa could grow in Midtown, and retain its down-home quality at the same time.

Guess that's the bell tolling... (pun intended)

11-15-2006, 02:29 AM
Look for them to move to someplace else in the Tulsa metro area under the same management.

11-15-2006, 05:27 AM
I agree it always seemed a bit "dirty," but I enjoyed going there on trips to tulsa. Seemed sorta old-school and laid back. I hope they can afford to relocate and pump some money into upgrades. Remember when Frontier City was just a seedy little run down park?

11-15-2006, 06:33 AM
I am against Bell's moving to Jenks. Why don't we just move everything else out of Tulsa while we're at it?

State's four fastest growing cities are always Jenks, Bixby, Broken Arrow, and Owasso. I think Claremore, Glenpool, and Sand Springs are fixing to take off as well...

11-15-2006, 08:18 AM
Robbie Bell has won a reprieve. Due largely to public pressure, Randi Miller (Tulsa County Commissioner) has proposed to let three independent auditors review the Bell’s business plan. If they decide that Bell’s is a viable business at the proposed lease rate at Expo Square then the county and Expo board (Expo Square is owned by Tulsa County) will reassess Bell’s lease. Robbie Bell says has said his business plan is sound. We will see.

I will say I went to the Tulsa State Fair this year and Bell’s was much improved. There are a couple of new rides and the existing ones were much better maintained and the park was cleaner. I think the microburst that hit Bell’s this summer gave them a real push to clean up the park. Bell’s also ended a long litigation battle this year with the area homeowners association and has reached an agreement on how and where a new rollercoaster will be built. But, only if he can get a new lease. News (

10-18-2007, 02:22 PM
What happened with this? Did they relocate?

10-19-2007, 09:35 PM
Bell's is nowhere, the family keeps saying they are close to a new location but the location they seemed to want the most was where The River District is going in Jenks.

06-06-2008, 06:18 PM
I've been to Tulsa numerous times. Still, I have not seen this park. I'm curious as to what attractions (the rides) it has. If it closes and no money to relocate, then managements could get these rides and spice them up. The only interesting ride that I've seen in a pix was a roller coaster. I'm not sure if it rivals Wild Cat or not. At least, something new to add for Frontier City.

06-06-2008, 09:27 PM
Hell, bring 'em to OKC.