A landmark of the Tulsa State Fair is coming down unless someone steps up to operate the Sky Ride.
On May 13, Expo Square announced there are plans to demolish the Sky Ride if no one buys it from the county. The Tulsa State Fair said staff have tried everything to keep the Sky Ride open. The Sky Ride debuted in 1965 and ran until 2019, when Don McClure, whose business operated the ride, ended his contract with the fair.
McClure told News On 6 the ride made a few hundred thousand dollars a year.
"Our problem was that we were reinvesting so heavily in the overhaul that the reason I canceled my contract with Tulsa was the continuing nature of the overhaul versus what the revenue was coming in," explained McClure.
McClure said he believes there are only ten Sky Rides around the country, including the one he owns at the Minnesota State Fair. He said it may be hard to find someone to buy the Tulsa Sky Ride.
"When you move a tramway, it has to meet new codes, and these machines just simply can't meet the new code requirements once they are moved, so it cannot be moved within the United States and reassembled,” explained McClure. “It could go to another country perhaps, and I have seen that done. For example, the Bronx Zoo had a Sky Ride that wound up in Colombia, South America."
Robby Bell has fond memories of the Sky Ride. His family, known for Bell's Amusement Park, owned the ride from 1971 to 2006 when they sold the ride to the fair after their amusement park was asked to leave the fairgrounds.
"When we owned the Sky Ride, it was the number one ride revenue producer of all the rides during the fair," said Bell.
He said it is bittersweet to hear what could happen to the ride.
"I think they're trying to deal with the situation as best they can,” said Bell. “I'd hate to see it go. It's a great piece of equipment."
The Tulsa State Fair declined News On 6’s requests for an interview. It issued this statement:
“The Sky Ride will no longer operate during the Tulsa State Fair. The focus on safety is always our top priority; currently the ride is in continued need of maintenance and repair. Due to the uniqueness of the ride, this type of specialized service is difficult to solidify, costly, and a limited number of providers are available in the United States. The business decision was made to not operate the ride during the 2021 event, and Expo Square has pursued demo preparations in 2022.
Expo Square staff has exhausted all options to safely operate the ride, which has not been functional since 2019. The Sky Ride from 2015 to 2019 was operated by DMC Tulsa LLC. In December 2019, DMC officially terminated the Agreement, making the decision to no longer oversee the Sky Ride due to the lack of revenue produced and significant expenses incurred.
If there is any interest to purchase the Sky Ride, the machine will be for sale at Tulsa County Public Surplus Auction in the near future. Any sale will be subject to defined removal conditions and terms.”