Thursday, November 09, 2006

Explain how this benefits Expo Square?

The Tulsa County Fair Board is evicting Bell's Amusement Park which has leased 10.4 acres since 1951, or 55 years. A letter sent to Robbie Bell, president of the park, gives him 120 days - four months - to pack up everything and get out.

The move may be a bit difficult to accomplish as some of those rides are pretty hefty. The fair board's action comes as a stab-in-the-back just as Bells had managed to end a long-standing dispute with residential neighbors that had blocked the addition of a large new roller coaster ride.

The Kevin Canfield article in the Tulsa World does not mention the fact that the Bell's announced a few months ago its intentions to eventually move to larger quarters near the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks. A news post by KOTV-6 includes a bit more information.

One fair board member is quoted by the World as saying he was "sad" that the board was kicking Bells out, "but ultimately, authority members have to do what's best for Expo Square" and taxpayers. But in the next paragraph he says, "The easiest thing for it to be used for, short term, is parking."

Last year the Bell's paid $135,000 in rent. During its tenure it has paid in about $12.5 million to the fairgrounds operation.

Wonder how much money that parking lot will make?

Good for the taxpayers?

Doesn't compute. More likely it is the Power Elite of Tulsa letting the Bells know - in typical hardball fashion - that the amusement park owners will pay a dear price for independence. You wanna move to Jenks? Then move!

It would be the best thing if they can swing it, albeit prematurely. Staying tied to the fairgrounds operation has only hamstrung their operation and rewarded a group of people who truly do not deserve it.

UPDATE - Joe ask the right questions, Randi doesn't have the answer

Just heard Joe Kelley of KRMG interviewing Tulsa County Commissioner Randi Miller about the Bell's eviction. He asked some good questions, which we'll try to paraphrase accurately, since we were in traffic at the time.

One question was, okay, so maybe Bell's is a bit run-down, no longer in its "hey" day, but you evict it in exchange for "what"? What are the options here?

Her answer: "I don't know. That's for the new fair board to decide."

Then Miller talks about a meeting she attended with the nearby homeowners group, which recently lost a court battle with Bell's trying to prevent the addition of a new roller coaster. She hinted that they suggested a parking lot would be better, and that it was true the fairgrounds has parking issues. (The homeowners don't like the spillover during the annual 10-day state fair).

"We need to do what's best for the taxpayers," she said.

So Joe, bless his heart, asks the $135,000 question.

"How much money can you make off of a parking lot?"

"I don't know," she said.

Well, we do. Since fairgrounds parking has traditionally, and up to this point still is, free, the answer is:


She reiterated the same talking points about the fact that the county bean counters (accountants) didn't like the Bell's business plan.

If paving over Bell's for more free parking is a better business plan than receiving $135,000 or more for renewing the park's lease, then we would suggest the Tulsa County folks get a new bunch of accountants.


At 5:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you considered that TCFA wants to get rid of Bell's because Bell's siphons off revenue from the fair that would otherwise go to the midway operator? Wasn't there a great deal of press about the sweetheart no-bid deal between the fair board and the mid-way operator?

At 5:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am 9 years old and I don't want to see Bell's close down. Our family always has fun at Bell's during the Tulsa State Fair. My younger sister road the Zingo for the first time this year. Please do not close Bell's. We want to keep the amusement park a family tradition.
Thank you
Your biggest fan!!

At 5:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's my thoughts as well. Murphy Brothers does have a no-bid contract with the Tulsa Fair and reports were that the Tulsa Fair lets them pay way less than national average rate for a midway.

Combine that with the fact that the new CEO Rick Bjorklund (the person who made the recommendation to the board to evict Bell's) was head of the the Wisconsin State Fair for seven years, another fair where Murphy Brothers has a no-bid contract for the midway.

Also, it's my understanding that Big Splash is owned by Jerry Murphy. Remember when Big Splash failed to pay their water bill? Why was that not grounds for eviction? After all, Randi Miller said herself that they won't subsidize private business.

And, keep in mind that Bell's has historically been Expo Square's highest paying tenant.

Add in the fact that Murphy's wife donated to a considerable amount to County Commissioner Randi Miller's election campaign, and you have a situation that flat out stinks of corruption and impropriety.

I sincerely hope someone starts a grand jury investigation of the whole matter. (Not residing in Tulsa County myself, I cant)

At 6:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree Bells should be able to stay. I dont know how many of you remember the old skyline park out on 151st. Till the house's went in there out in the woods were still some remains of the old wooden coaster out there. I remember going there a lot of times as a child. Still remember the duck ride there also just like they have up at branson. The little lake there was big enough for that and swimming area also. I just think if we lose bells like we did skyline park whats gonna be next?

At 7:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are 100% correct,

``We're not in a process like the one that elects the next 'American Idol,' where phone messages determine public policy,''

But, we the people of Tulsa can refuse to come to the expo's events and pay your out of sight prices for soft drinks, beer, and snacks. We may also have the right to contact all your sponsors in protest of your decisions. All your vendors that pay you big money to sell their products at the expo calling it a sponsorship.

I believe that Bells is a place the kids go when moms and dad's are showing their livestock, or at the gun shows, or what ever event the grown ups happen to be doing. I for one went to Bells when I was a kid. I am not a major fan of Bells today due to the gang problems. However, should Bells supply ample security, that shouldn't be a problem.

I see no reason why the people can't boycott the Expo, and write County Commissioners and demand your replacement!

Myself, I play on writing blogs in protest, and hope everybody else I know in Tulsa will do the same. I play also on writing all the different vendors you have, the event groups to suggest they maybe consider moving to the civic center, or the new center they are building. I know you don't have to listen, but you don't have to count OUR money either!

Maybe the live stock and horse races could be moved to Oklahoma City!

At 7:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Randi Miller needs to take care of her district as well as she is trying to take care of getting Bells out of the fairgrounds. It is ridiculous to make a parking lot when they are getting revenue from Bells. But then again maybe they are going to charge for parking for events on the fairgrounds.

At 8:04 PM, Blogger GREENWOODTRIBUNE said...

I am like many Tulsans, and I have been a long time goer to Bell's and the State Fair. Although the numbers were reportedly high in attendance to this year fair, I noticed a decline in the rides and other amusements and an increase in food vendors. I guess I would have enjoyed the food vendors had I not eaten before the fair. ( I knew the prices were gonna be high). It is obvious that the County have some other plans for the site. The justification for a parking lot is ludicrious.

At 8:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Only wasy that I can side with the county is if Six Flags or some other major company to replace it. I remember those days of Lakeview Amusement Park. When you did not have enough money to goto Bell's, You can goto Lakeview. Without Bell's We would have nuthin' except for the city parks. Oops we don't have those either!!

At 8:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is a copy of an email I sent to Mr. Bjorklund of Expo Square:

Dear Mr. Bjorklund,

I am writing this email to simply voice my opinion on the recent announcement regarding Bell's Amusement Park.

Regardless of the number of telephone calls or emails that your office has received, I think it is a safe assumption that the majority of Tulsans are deeply disturbed in response to your recent announcement. Bell's has been a Tulsa icon for over 50 years. Most Tulsans, native or otherwise, have enjoyed a day at Bell's at some time. Speaking for myself, I can recall numerous enjoyable occasions spent at Bell's. Miniature golf, the skyride, and my first roller coaster ride ever taken (on Zingo) were had at Bell's. Compounded with the seemingly uncaring attitude you have taken towards Bell's, I am disgusted at your comments about the park and its future.

I do recall seeing a statement in an article recently about what would become of the current location of Bell's should the park be forced to leave. A parking lot? Are you attempting to make Expo Square look like downtown Tulsa? Is your new parking lot going to attract thousands of visitors every year to your facility?
"We're not in a process like the one that elects the next 'American Idol,' where phone messages determine public policy," Bjorklund said. I do believe you are incorrect, Mr. Bjorklund, and I find this comment offenseive. For many Tulsans, the telephone is the easiest way to communicate with public officials. It would be a sad day if perhaps the Mayor's Action Line decided to end the ability for citizens to telephone their concerns to the city. The public dictates the success of Expo Square and its offerings. The attractions and events at Expo Square are what draws the public to your facility. Bell's has attracted many individuals to your facilities. Perhaps if you had a mind to listen to the public, whether it be through the comments received via telephone at your office or anywhere else, you would quickly understand what Bell's means to Tulsans.

I sincerely hope that you will listen to Tulsans and reconsider your decision.

At 8:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keep on fighting Robbie. We Tulsans are behind you. No Bells No State Fair. Tulsans will boycott the state fair just like we boycotted the summer music festivals when they tried to charge to a free event :(

At 8:19 PM, Blogger GREENWOODTRIBUNE said...

It is sad when the power that be and politcal folks have their way when it come to public interest. If anything that could unite this town, it is Bell's. 120 days to get out? That sounds like an eviction notice to a bad renter.
This need national attention.

At 8:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do anybody know the stance of the Chamber of Commerce? They are the leaders of Tulsa and have their pulse on a lot of things that go on in this city.

At 8:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey anonymou at 7;30. I think you hit the nail on the head. Horse Racing. I think they are wanting a big hotel and all for the horse racing. Forget about our family fun and out young people. Bell's has helped keep our your people out of trouble and family's together for over 5o years. Why is everyone trying to take everything away from our kids????

At 10:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...




Commissioner Collins:

Commissioner Miller:

Commissioner Dick:

KJRH Channel 2: Deana Goll – or

KTUL Channel 8: Elizabeth Kinney – or

KOTV Channel 6:

Clear Channel all stations: or GM Craig Millar

Cox Communications: news-John Durkee, morning show-Joe Kelley

Tulsa World: Kevin Canfield

Journal Broadcast Group: Gwen Freeman

Journal Record: Ginger Shephard

Shamrock KTSO 94.1 FM: Paul Kriegler

Expo Square: Rick Bjorklund

At 10:42 PM, Anonymous rasputin mcgillicuddy said...

I worked for Bell's for years, and it may sound corny, but I consider Robby Bell a hero of mine. I don't know a man or woman alive who puts in as many hours at the job as he does. There would be months at a time where he didn't take a day off. With all of the minor emergencies that happened there, I never once saw him lose his cool. The way that the TCFA wants to throw him out just makes my blood boil. I don't know what they have in mind for the space that Bell's now occupies, but it surely doesn't have anything to do with parking. If this is how they treat a company that gives free days to schools and churches, I'd hate to see how they would treat criminals. Oh yeah, they'd probably give them no-bid contracts.

At 10:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The removal of bells will absolutly not benefit expo square. More people would rather go to bells than to the expo square. People come to tulsa to go to bells and to have fun. If bells goes why would people go to tulsa? Wouldnt this put a bad look on Tulsa? During the Tulsa state fair people go to bells to. The indoor fun fair aint going to cut it either. What is next Big splash? What are people going to do, go there to park in the parking lot? Why do they want to take the fun out of Tulsa? More people go to bells than to any event in the expo square. If anything they should take out the square and expand Bells. My 11 year old daughter has cryed her eyes out because her favorite place is being removed. She asked me why I told her because the ceo of expo square wants them to leave she told me to post this little bit for her she said "The CEO is a big meany head." I even agree with her because what am going to do spend $1000 in gas to take her to six flags.

At 10:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My child is 14 I'v taking him to bells every year sence he was two I met his father there we are both trying to figure out what the CEO has wrong with his head

At 11:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It isnt only Tulsans that are mad about this people fom everywhere come I am fom Wagoner Bells is where my friends and I get together and hang out to have some fun and catch up because some of my friends are from other states. As for the boycott we will help. They already got rid of the star trek convintion if Bells goes they will lose more than half of their business. I am quite sure of it.

At 11:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heard they want to build horse races. How many people are going to go to the horse races?

At 11:25 PM, Anonymous rasputin mcgillicuddy said...

I'm sure that the TCFA aren't all that concerned with what we citizens think. After all, they aren't operating like American Idol. If we make our voices loud enough, I think that we may be able to get through to the human that is hiding in there. I challenge all of you who took the time to post on this site (and all of those who chose not to), to use the information posted above this to contact either a media outlet or one of the elected officials in question. Tulsa is your town!! Help keep it that way!

At 11:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Losing Bell's is like a wonderful (still living) part of your childhood dying! It is too awful to think about!

At 11:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To give Bells the boot, after being in the same location for many years, and paying their fair share of rent to the county, plus sales tax, permit fees, etc. to the city, to me something doesn't smell right.
And the stink only gets stronger when it is suggested that the spot would most likely be used as parking, which is free at the fairgrounds. Or at least it is for now. "now" being the key word here.
Someone wrote earlier that the county wanted the property back to pave the way for a business that would generate more revenue overall.
This could very well be the case. And if it is, the 'parking lot story' is a red herring, for unless someone else wanted the site, such as for a hotel for horse race fans and the like, then why would the county dismiss around $135,000 a year coming in from a on going business, only to replace with a parking lot that would produce 0 dollars? Common sense dictates otherwise.....unless in the near future parking is going to cost x amount of dollars.
If in fact this is what happens, then it will probably be under the control of the TCPA (Tulsa County Parking Authority) which already controls the airport, civic center, etc.
And since the TCPA farms out managment of their facilities through a bidding process, which in Tulsa comes down to either American Parking Company or Central Parking as the norm, with APC holding the largest amount of contracts so far, mainly the airport parking, no doubt one of the two will run the fairgrounds parking lots if they go to pay parking.
Of course this is speculation on my part.
Personally, if I was Bell I would pack up and move, not to Jenks, but say Osage county, and tell Rick Bjorklund to kiss my ass!

At 12:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tulsa is not our town! Tulsa belongs to a small group of extremely rich people who own the local politicians.

If you think for even one minute that plans for the space occupied by Bell’s wasn’t “fitted” with a new occupant at least a year ago and will be announced with six months, then you are sadly mistaken. This announcement will be “an unexpected opportunity” and announced with great fanfare by our local politicians. Of course this “new opportunity” will be the savior of us all and produce untold zillions of dollars of revenue (especially for the saviors and politicians).

Welcome to Tulsa, Oklahoma where concrete batch plants are placed in the middle of neighborhoods, zillon dollar arenas are built when everyone already knows they are a losing proposition, a wasted downtown is rebuilt by public money to benefit the private sector, and a multi-zillion dollar “gated” island, with a security gate, is built for special interests by public funds. You might ask “why” a rape of public trust and funds can occur at this magnitude. Just analyze who pays for the election campaign of local politicians and you have your answer.

At 7:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Move Bells to Jenks - on the River - let them get all the tax dollars - just like they are with the riverwalk and aquarium!!! It's just like Tulsa to make bad financial decisions....

At 8:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I sent this e-mail yesterday to our county commisioners and the Fair Board President

Dear Sirs,
I cannot even start to to address how I feel personally about the arbitrary and unwarrented actions you have taken agains't a good and decent man (Robbie Bell) , his employees, and the good taxpaying citizens of the community.

Let me address several concerns you have been throwing around.

Financial Viability
Mr. Bell secured a bank loan of 3/4 million dollars to build a new wooden roller coaster contengent on a lease approval from the fair board. Banks do not lend that kind of money to companies which are insolvent or on shaky financial grounds. Just doesn't happen.

Mr. Bell has consistantly reinvested in the business the past several years in new equipment and rides to keep attacting new business and to retain current customers.

Despite being closed for 20 days to repair storm damage this past summer the park has had record business and on several occasions had to turn away customers because the park was too full. Doesn't sound like a failing business. to me.

The $135,000 he pays in rent is more than what the Drillers and Big Splash pay you folks combined. Why aren't you hasseling them??

Granted he had to ask for a reduction in rent 2 years ago, but that can be traced back to a parking decision made during the fair which cut back his foot traffic thru the park drastically. Your fault not his.

Finally I would rather the county recieve the rent from Bells which is a darned sight more than what a parking lot on the same site would earn.


I called State Labor Secretary Brenda Reneau's office this morning. They are the agency that over sees ride inspections in the State of Oklahoma. According to them in 51 years of operation there has been only one death and a couple of instances of broken bones. Hardly seems like a unsafe operation. According to them his safety record is exemplary. Also they informed me that Mr. Bell carries insurance far in excess of that required by the State. I sure don't see a problem safety or liabuility wise.


Finally it is wrong, disgraceful, disgusting and despicable what you are doing. We ought to encourage respectable family oriented businesses like this one. And even if your persist in this wrongful act 120 days is a very unreasonable time frame especially with winter coming on to ask them to move.

I have attended my last event at Expo square, I refuse to spend my hard earned money at a place that stabs the community in the back. I will not vote for any more of these "4 to fix the county" and danged sure won't vote for Commisioner Millers favorite charity "The Channels". As long as you folks persist in this Bells trashing you can take "The Channels and shove up the Golden drillers hiney where the Sun never shines!!! Sincerely Craig A. Adams

At 9:04 AM, Blogger GREENWOODTRIBUNE said...













At 10:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like to add one!
An Arena!

At 10:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about the "Bob Dick memorial Air Conditioned Goat barn"??

At 10:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Mr. Bjorkland is being used. The commissioners knew better than to even broach the subject of ousting Bells with Denny Tuttle, so with Denny gone, and a non native in the CEO position, they went for it. Bjorkland seems to be a nice man (I've met him on several occations) but he was used, I feel sure he had no idea what kind of crap this decision was going to stir up. But, the commissioners knew! Murphy definately has his hand in this too. Big Splash loses money and is rumored to be filing backruptsy, maybe if Bells were gone Murphy could pull it out. But, I believe given the choice of one or the other, the public would prefer to keep Bells and let the water park go down the drain! We cannot let Bells go quietly, and not at all if it's possible!

At 11:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to nomiate The Mr. Haney's Outdoor Flea Market and grill

At 11:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you drive east on 21st just before you get to Bell's, you can see home already being demolished. The plans are already there and Bell's is just in the way. Follow the money and you will find out who is really pulling Bkjorklund and the commissioner's strings

At 11:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cherokee Casino needs to move Robbie and his rides to catoosa and tell Expo to kiss their...Expo is leaning toward adult entertainment with girls wearing shirts that say "wanna see my tits? follow me to Cloud Nine" walking around at car shows, Chili Bowl and many other Expo events. Is that the direction we want our public facilities to go? Don't we still have a say in what we consider good clean fun, like Bells!

At 12:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 3:45 PM, Blogger Scott said...

I would really like to thank anonymous at 10:17 PM for providing us the e-mail address for all these so call officials.I emplore everyone tho take two minutes of your time and e-mail each and everyone on this list. BE HEARD!!! I use to live in Osage county and we would go to Bells every summer. I now live in Ma. and will be moving back some time in the future. Some of my fondest memories are from being at Bells and meeting friends there.I planned to make new memories there with my fiance' and her two girls. I am 40 and can't ever remember Bells not being there! I truly think that Bells should be classified as a historic site and should be saved. I think that the TCFA should be taken out of the equation by doing this. If Bells becomes a historic site then the TCFA can go spit! I think that if the TCFA were in Paris they would vote to kick out the Eiffel Tower because it is "old and past it's hey day"

These people make no sense, but, what do we expect from politicians!

I am going to e-mail the commissioners and who else I can get to listen!!

BE HEARD!!!!!!!

At 5:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I personally know the Murphy Brothers (mid-way operators) have the political pull to be involved with this decision. The behind the scenes politics of this disturbing situation is something most people don't ever see. I assure you it is alive and well. Good old boy politics is playing an active roll.

I don't understand why no one has keyed in on the huge differences in the amounts the other venues are forced to pay at the fairgrounds. Drillers are only paying a small amount, but they are certainly reaping all the benefits. They made the beautiful infield of the racetrack a hotbed of tar for their parking...leading some horse owners not to return to race. They don't pay the county enough to warrant this treatment, in my opinion. So many things have been done for the Drillers and allowances made that it appears to me Robby Bell has been handed a rotten deal all along.

I think we need to take a serious look at our county commissioners, the people they hire, and any other person associated with the fairgrounds we can vote out of office or vote their cohorts out. This has been out of control for years and people can now see what is really going on.

I hope Robby Bell builds a bigger and better park elsewhere. After 50 years of their service to our city, he deserves much more than our county officials have given him. Good luck, Robby! Remember everything that comes around...goes around. They will get theirs with our votes.

At 10:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The entire eviction is not that Bell's is insolvent. It is a who wants the space Bell's occupies. Lets see. We are not naive to think that the TCFA wants to put a parking lot there. It has been checked and the political pockets have been sufficiently greased. The "greasor" wants the land to put his rides there. Well, he has a no bid contract during the fair, but does he have liability insurance? It doesn't matter, the good citizens of Tulsa County will take up the slack. RE: 1987 safety breaches. Lets look at the thing that has not opened our eyes. The news reads Bell's(paraphrased) is paying a "reduced" rent of $135K. It is public knowledge that for a long period of time Bell's paid rent in the neighborhood of $400k+. If one of the local casinos would donate or offer land to Bell's at a "reduced" rate, then they could move there. The county commissioners couldn't touch them there and they would still be in the city of Tulsa.

At 10:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find it VERY interesting that Randi Miller is talking about Bell's safety record, but just awarded Gerry Murphy a 10-year no-compete contract. It's interesting that the deaths that have occurred on his watch, at his parks, under his management don't make her question the sweet deal they just gave him. Hmmm... something smells like rotten politicians.

At 5:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad to see Bell's go. The place was always a second-rate amusement park, and with the summer riots and the boy's death on the roller coaster, I think the Bell's have done enough damage to Tulsa.

I hope they go out of business after they move. Tulsa doesn't need any John Birchers.

At 9:17 PM, Blogger LLB said...

We are are boycotting the tulsa state fair and giving our business to the OKC state fair! we're going to hurt the fair commission in the pocketbook! this just stinks! we'll never darken the door of the tulsa state fair ever again! ever!


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