Discoveryland

41
City/Town: Sand Springs
Location Class: Theater
Year Built: 1976 | Year Abandoned: 2014
Status: GuttedUnder Renovation Private Property
Photojournalist: Billy DixonJohnny FletcherEmily Cowan

Since 1976,  the Discoveryland amphitheater has brought family fun and musicals to Sand Springs and the surrounding area. Most popularly known for its showing of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “Oklahoma!”. Construction was underway in the area of “Coyote Trails” with architect Frank Wallace, contractors F&D Construction Co., and developer World Changer Inc. After completion, it would feature seating for 2,000, parking for 800, and a “trading post” where one could buy tickets, knick-knacks, concession stand, and camping area.

Ad from 1977

The debut musical was Dust on Her Petticoats with a cast of around 80 and a crew of 45. In addition, it was the first production in the area to feature womanhood while having a woman director. More popularly known, was its production of Oklahoma! The success was what put Discoverland on the map, so much so that they were awarded the 1979 Governor’s Tourism Award. It was because of the success that in June of 1980, the musical found its way back home from Broadway to Discoveryland. It was proclaimed home of the “Oklahoma!” production. “Naturally, we’re delighted and honored that Rodgers and Hammerstein have paid Discoveryland the tribute. But equally important to us is the fact the show will now be presented in its “home” state on an ongoing basis,” Bill Jeffers, General Manager of Discoverland said. The seasons lasted 13-weeks from June-August, for dinner and a show it would run you about $10 per adult making it the ideal spot for a whole summer full of family entertainment.

Troubles

Taken in 1993 by Jim Argo

In 1987, Discoveryland hit some bumps in the road when the IRS seized the property threatening to sell it at auction unless the owners paid the more than $173,000 they owed in back taxes. World Changers Inc., the owners of the property, paid the amount shortly after causing the auction date set for the amphitheater to be canceled. They also owned the state more than $130,000 and over $30,000 in penalties and interest from a suit filed in February for withholding tax. Shortly after all the money troubles began, in 1992, the owners filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to protect creditors from closing the production.

Closing/New Life

DiscoveryLand came to an end in the summer of 2011 unknowingly. Owners at the time said record heat and money were to blame. It would stay closed for two more summers after that before announcing official closure in 2014. The amphitheater held the production of Oklahoma! there every summer for 34 years, making memories for hundreds of thousands of people.

Rendering provided by Discoveryland Range and Resort

In 2018, a $20 million dollar membership-only “Discoveryland Range and Resort” were attempted at the Discoveryland grounds quickly becoming a failed endeavor. But then Jason & Kayla Shipman bought the property in 2019 for $1.7 million dollars in hopes of making the 525 acres their dream property. A vision for a wedding venue, events center, as well as build their family ranch on the property.

Article by AOK Photojournalist Emily Cowan.

Gallery Below




Bibliography
“14 JUL 1980, 1 – Sapulpa daily herald at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/662121851/?terms=discoveryland.
“18 Nov 1987, 3 – Sapulpa daily herald at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/662121757/?terms=discoveryland.
“20 JUL 1992, 1 – Sapulpa daily herald at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/662245229/?terms=discoveryland.
“20 May 2018, 19 – the Daily Oklahoman at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/452687079/?terms=discoveryland.
“31 JUL 1977, 165 – the Daily Oklahoman at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/451613028/?terms=discoveryland.
“31 JUL 1988, 11 – Sapulpa daily herald at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/662214352/?terms=discoveryland.
“6 Jun 1976, 7 – Sapulpa daily herald at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/661838181/?terms=discoveryland.
“7 Jun 1980, 24 – the Daily Oklahoman at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/452470209/?terms=discoveryland.
Jeffers, B. “Discoveryland in sand springs closed permanently.” KOKI, 31 July 2014, www.fox23.com/news/discoveryland-sand-springs-closed-permanently/109231533/.
Argo, Jim. Discoveryland, photograph, July 1993; (https://gateway.okhistory.org/ark:/67531/metadc1641587/: accessed July 10, 2020), The Gateway to Oklahoma History, https://gateway.okhistory.org; crediting Oklahoma Historical Society.
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Lisa riggs
Lisa riggs
6 months ago

I was an usherette the first season it opened. I was 15. Enthralled by the behind the scene production. Loved it!

Kelly C
Kelly C
6 months ago

I worked there for 2 summers in 2009 and 2010. All the trash left there is sad to see.

John Owens
John Owens
6 months ago

I helped build the place when I was a kid!

Jamie Covey
Jamie Covey
6 months ago

So sad to see it gone! Always loved going to Discoveryland

Jennifer Newton
Jennifer Newton
6 months ago

We went several times during my childhood. I absolutely LOVED it. Wish they could revive it again

Camillia
Camillia
6 months ago

I saw 7 Brides for 7 Brothers there

Brenda Imel
Brenda Imel
Reply to  Camillia
6 months ago

I took my son to see that there. He loved that play/movie.

Beth Williams
Beth Williams
6 months ago

I wihs it had hung around long enough for me to take my kids! I loved going when I was a kid!

Sheri Borg
Sheri Borg
6 months ago

That place was so cool and had some decent bbq sandwhiches. It was such a great place to take friends and family from out of town. So bummed it shut down.

Carla Barrett
Carla Barrett
6 months ago

I regret not visiting the place before it closed. It is in my town and intended to visit when I moved here but never got around to it. My vet and her husband purchased it. I am happy that a very nice family have got it, it will be interesting to see what they will do with the place. I did hear it was going to be turned into a working ranch.

Sara Hembree
Sara Hembree
6 months ago

I remember going there with my grandma when i was little i always loved it

Adrienne Baehler
Adrienne Baehler
6 months ago

Went several times as a kid. Big open BBQ dinner where you’d meet new people and kids could play while adults talked. Then the show kept all ages enthralled!

Debbie Johnson
Debbie Johnson
6 months ago

They put on alot of wonderful show. Lots of great talent.

Alyssa Dougan
Alyssa Dougan
6 months ago

Sooo sad that this closed! Loved seeing Oklahoma! and also Seven Brides for Seven Brothers there. What a gem lost.

Loret Holland
Loret Holland
6 months ago

This was a great venue for a night out. The dinner was fabulous! And the production never disappointed. Someone please reopen this gem in green country!!!

John t
John t
6 months ago

So many good memories. We went every year and lived around the corner on 209 W. Avenue. -former part of Tulsa Boys Home old ranch. Anyone remember that from early 70’s?

Athena Reich
Athena Reich
5 months ago

Anyone remember Camp Cute and Spooky? Such a fun time for Halloween on this property with my “city kids” A magical forest, campfire, smores, horses, and pumpkin painting! I also remember going to the plays every year! Please restore this for future generations!!

Richard
Richard
5 months ago

When I was in 7th grade, my junior high school spring play was Oklahoma. I played the character Will Parker. That summer, my parents took me to Discoveryland to watch their production of Oklahoma. After the show, we were allowed to come on stage and meet the performers. I immediately found the actor that played Will Parker. I’m 53 now. That’s something I will remember forever.

James Reed
James Reed
6 months ago

My mom worked there for so many years. She loved it! She passed in 2012 and it’s like a part of this place passed with her.

Tena Trotter
6 months ago

Worked at Discoveryland for a few summers. Some early mornings and sometimes into the wee hours of the night. Always great fun and always unexpected adventures. Robberies and overnight camping. Horse wrangling and wildlife management. Lots of BBQ and strawberries with ice cream. Not to mention coworkers and visitors. These things combined made for a lifetime of memories and unending stories.

Helen Jennings
Helen Jennings
6 months ago

Our daughter performed here for six years. We enjoyed every performance. It was a wonderful event with something for the whole family!
It was sad when it closed.

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