The Tulsa Wave - Urban Whitewater
One of the most unexpected sporting opportunities in Tulsa is the "Tulsa Wave," a hotspot for whitewater kayak and canoe enthusiasts. The Wave is situated within easy view of the tulsa skyline on the west bank of the Arkansas River near the PSO/AEP power plant south of 31st street. The presence of the power plant's coffer dam on the river forces the main flow to be channeled into a fairly narrow area and the fortuitous placement of rocks creates the perfect conditions for a run of waves and pools that white water enthusiasts consider some of the best between the Applachian and Rocky Mountains. Recently PSO has contributed funds and labor to construct a path down the riverbank to improve access for the paddlers, put benches in place for those who want to watch the fun, and dubbed the area the Tulsa Wave Park . The area is easy to reach by way of the Tulsa Riverparks path that runs along the west bank.
The size of the Wave is of course effected by flows in the river, and local experts say it is best when flows are between 11,000 and 14,000 cfs (cubic feet per second). Information on daily stream flows can be obtained from the Corps of Engineers, who control the upstream Keystone Dam, at http://www.swt-wc.usace.army.mil/power/hydropower.html or from Southwest Power Adminsitration by calling Southwestern Power Administration's automated voice system at 918-595-6779 for scheduled power generation releases. When prompted for a code, enter 03 for Keystone, then follow additional prompts. For some more pictures of the Tulsa Wave, including some great video of kayakers riding the water go to http://www.americanwhitewater.org/rivers/id/3742
Equipment: There are no outfitters located nearby. You must bring your own gear.
Tulsa Drillers Baseball - All-American Fun
The Tulsa Drillers are the AA Texas League farm team for the Major League Baseball (MLB) Colorado Rockies. For those not familiar with the system, AA is two steps below MLB and many of the players you will see can be expected to make it to "The Bigs" soon. MLB stars Sammy Sosa, Ivan Rodriguez, Hank Blalock, Juan Gonzalez, Ruben Sierra and Jeff Francis (among other) all spent time on the Drillers roster.
The team plays at ONEOK Field on the edge of downtown in the historic Greenwood/Brady area. Completed in 2010, it is an outstanding venue with plenty of comfortable seating, corporate boxes, a party deck, grassy lawns for lounging near the outfield, children's playground, and great views of the Tulsa skyline. Concessions are good, with plentiful choices and outstanding prices. Special promotions and giveaways occur at almost every game and there are several popular "fireworks nights" held throughout the season.
In 2005, the Drillers celebrated 100 years of professional baseball in Tulsa. The first team was fielded in 1905 (two years before Oklahoma was even a state!) and named the Tulsa Oilers. The name was changed to the Producers for a few years, then back to the Oilers until 1977 when they became the Drillers (finally leaving the Oilers name soley for the local hockey team).
All in all, a Tulsa Drillers game is a great way to spend a warm spring or summer evening - and it will cost you a fraction of the cost of the big-leagues!
Tulsa 66ers Basketball - Catch some D League
One of the newest additions to the Tulsa pro sports landscape is the "Tulsa 66ers" of the National Basketball Developmental League (NBDL). The NBDL describes itself as a league that "offers players the opportunity to develop their talent in a highly competitive atmosphere under the NBA's umbrella" and that the NBDL serves as "a diverse human resources pool for the NBA and its teams by training employees in management, operations, public relations, sales and marketing positions." The 66ers are the official minor league team of the NBA Oklahoma City Thunder.
Tulsa's team plays at the newly renovated Tulsa Convention Center downtown. Ticket prices are in a broad range from about $10.00 - $50.00.
The name "66ers" pays homage to Route 66, which runs directly through Tulsa less than a half a mile from the Convention Center. Route 66 is the famous American highway that once ran from Chicago to southern California and, prior to the advent of the modern Interstate Highway system, was a primary artery for automobile travelers heading west.
Tulsa Talons - Arena Football
Tulsa's third professional team is the Tulsa Talons. The Talons compete in the ArenaFootball2 league. Games are held at the Tulsa Convention Center from April through July.
If you aren't familiar with arena football, it is based on the regular version of american football, with much of the same rules and equipment. There are a number of major differences however. Most noticealy the field is only a total of 50 yards long and 85 feet wide. Also the distance between the goal posts is half as wide and they are flanked by tightly strung nets from which kicks are bounced and returned. Another big difference is that the team rosters are much smaller, there are only 8 men per side on the field, and the same players play both offense and defense.
All of this makes for a very fast and usually exciting game with a lot of quick passing. The players are all at least ex-college players and very good athletes. Another unique aspect of arena football is that fans sit right up to the padded "sidelines" and it isn't unusual for a fan to have a ball, or even a player, land in their lap. A nice bonus of the league is that if you do catch a ball, you get to keep it. If you sit near the sidelines you are best advised to keep your attention on the game!
The Talons organization, like most professional sports teams these days, go to some lengths to keep the "excitement" up between plays with loud music, t-shirt throws, dancers and the like. Usually it is a fun atmosphere, but all the noise can get a little annoying if you aren't in the mood for it. The only other negative is the venue of the Tulsa Convention Center. The arena is outdated and the ceiling is not actually quite high enough for the kick-offs. Luckily the Tulsa Talons, like the Oilers hockey team, will benefit from the new arena that is under construction in downtown Tulsa.
Ticket prices are reasonable at $10-$30.
Tulsa Oilers Hockey
It's not particularly unusual these days for a city in the southern portions of the U.S. to have a professional ice hockey team, but Tulsa has a longer history with the sport than most.
Professional hockey first arrived in Tulsa in 1928 with the original Tulsa Oilers of the Amerian Hockey League. They played until 1942, folded during WWII and were reborn in 1948, playing in the United States Hockey League until 1951. After another hiatus, the Tulsa Ice Oilers joined the Central Hockey League (CHL) in 1964, the leagues second season. Tulsa stayed in the CHL for a record 20 years, winning the league championship "Adams Cup" three times ('68, '76, '84). The team again ceased operation after 1984 but was revived in 1992 to continue play in the CHL. Today Tulsa plays in the Northwest Divison with hated arch-rival Oklahoma City, as well as Colorado and Wichita.
The games are played at the Convention Center Arena, a venue that leaves MUCH to be desired (especially when compared to OKC's new and ultra-spiffy Ford Center). The biggest (only?) factor in favor of the current venue is that it is modestly sized and all the seats are relatively close to the rink. Fortunately, the citizens of Tulsa have wisely voted to build a new arena, designed by famed archtect Cesar Pelli, that is slated to be ready for play in late 2007.
Regardless of location, Oilers fans are guaranteed for some hard-hitting hockey action, perhaps without some of the finesse of NHL play, but with plenty of heart, at a much more affordable price, and without the likelihood of a NHL-style season-killing labor dispute! Tickets for the 2005-06 season ranged from $10-$18.
TU Golden Hurricane Sports
The University of Tulsa athletic teams are mostly overshadowed in the press, even in Tulsa, by the exploits of Oklahoma's much larger public universities, but relatively low ticket prices plus high-quality on-campus venues makes attendance at a TU sporting event an all-around good deal.
TU is a private school with about 3,500 students, and is one of the smallest institutions in the U.S. participating in all sports at the NCAA Division I-A level. Nonetheless, it regularly fields highly competitive teams in a number of sports - most noticeably men's basketball, women's golf, and men's soccer. Because of its size and very high academic standards, the "Golden Hurricane" (always singular, never plural) often struggles to be as competitive in football, but on occasion thrills fans with a breakout season, most recently in 2003 and 2005 (when it won the first ever C-USA Championship).
The Reynolds Center, home for TU basketball, is a first-class facility built in 1998. The main arena seats about 8,400. The futuristic building with its curvaceous roof sits prominently on the southeast corner of the campus at 11th & Harvard. The ticket office for all TU sporting events is on the north side of the Reynolds center.
Football is played at Skelly Stadium, immediately west of the Reynolds Center. Skelly was originally built in 1930 and has been expaned several times. It now seats about 40,000. There is nothing wrong with the stadium, but it is currently lacking in some of the amenities of more modern stadiums. A major renovation began in 2005 , featuring the replacement of the north end-zone bleachers with a new building containing athletic offices and some suites overlooking the field.
In recent years TU expanded the campus to the west and added terrific new facilities for tennis, softball, soccer, track and other sports. The Case Tennis Center is one of the best in the country and hosted the 2004 NCAA tennis finals. All of these facilites are very attractive and provide great venues for watching some exciting action.