Records show nearly $1.8 million invested in Tulsa Skyride, ahead of proposed demolition

TULSA, Okla. — FOX23 uncovered financial records showing that Tulsa County spent nearly $1.8 million enhancing and renovating the Expo Square Skyride that it now is looking to demolish.

The rumors that the historic Skyride at Tulsa County-owned Expo Square may soon be a distant memory all started with an ominous post on an anonymous website last week.

That website, TulsaSkyride.com, is a fan page, devoted to recording the history of the ride. Last week it made a post claiming to have inside information that the Skyride, which last operated in 2019, was in imminent danger of demolition.

It was only after FOX23 started asking questions about it that Expo Square officials confirmed they do plan to sell the ride and likely have it demolished in the coming weeks.

They cited finances as the reason the ride was no longer viable to operate.

But FOX23 did some digging, and found as recently as months before the ride closed, Expo Square was still investing hundreds of thousands in public funds for enhancements to the ride, beyond routine maintenance.

“It makes my blood boil,” Scotty Martin said. “It’s unbelievable that you’re just gonna give up on it.”

FOX23 introduced you to Martin last week. He is working on a documentary about the former Bell’s Amusement Park that Skyride was once a part of. But since the county purchased the ride from Bell’s for $600,000 in 2007, Martin has had a financial interest in it too.

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“I’m a Tulsa County taxpayer,” Martin said.

The financial records obtained by FOX23 show, since 2007, Expo Square spent nearly $1.8 million in public funds for enhancements and upkeep to the ride.

Martin says he doesn’t understand why the county would spend all that money upgrading the ride, only for it to be permanently closed shortly later.

“What a waste to take all of that money and just crumple it up,” he said.

That money went to things like motor and control upgrades, a sound system, upgraded roofs, and nearly $400 thousand to DMC-Tulsa, the company Expo Square contracted to operate the ride from 2015 to 2019.

“It’s essentially brand new, and on top of being brand new mechanically, it’s been brought up to date to be brand new with its technology,” Martin said.

Records show Expo Square spent $6,200 for signs on the Skyride’s station before the 2019 fair—the last time the ride operated.

Expo Square officials told FOX23 they removed those signs shortly after the 2019 fair.

“For 11 days? And then they’re done? That’s unbelievable that they’re just gonna give up on it with that much money literally wasted,” Martin said.

Those officials have so far declined an on-camera interview with FOX23. Over email, Expo Square’s Chief Operating Officer Amanda Blair told FOX23 the following:

“In order for the machine to be operable, it must go through continuous, costly maintenance and repair on an annual basis. There are guaranteed annual expenses that are ongoing.”

But according to the financial records FOX23 obtained, only a little less than $60 thousand of that nearly $1.8 million the county spent over the years actually went toward things labeled specifically as “Skyride maintenance and repair.”

“Transparency is incredibly important right now,” Martin said.

Correction: This article previously pointed to taxpayer dollars. The money previously utilized for the repair, maintenance and operation was not taxpayer funded.  TCPFA is a public trust, which means revenue generated is considered public money.