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Discoveryland

Discoveryland

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Built: 1976 | Abandoned: 2014
Status: Restored (2022)
Photojournalist: Billy DixonJohnny FletcherEmily Cowan

DiscoverylandSince 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.

Discoveryland
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.

Discoveryland
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.

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. In 2018, a $20 million dollar membership-only “Discoveryland Range and Resort” were attempted at the Discoveryland grounds quickly becoming a failed endeavor. Some thought that maybe the property would never come back and would forever be just a memory.

Discoveryland
Rendering provided by Discoveryland Range and Resort

Discoveryland Ranch Wedding and Event Venue

But then Jason & Kayla Shipman came along as a saving grace. Purchasing the property in 2019 for $1.7 million dollars in hopes of making the 525 acres their dream property. With a vision for a new multi-use event center and a significant remodel of the Amphitheater and Picnic Pavilion, construction on the property started in late 2020. Some of the older buildings such as the gift shop, BBQ pit and costume house were too far gone to salvage. The Event Center sits where the “Indian Trading Post” once stood and is a beautiful testament to the hard work and dedication that has gone into making this a place for Oklahoma families to continue to enjoy once again. The Picnic Pavillion still stands and is in the process of having a pond with a built-in water feature beside it to not only give a stunning view but create a perfect background for photos to capture these lifelong memories. The Amphitheater, the heart of Discoveryland, was stripped to the bare bones and looked quite dull for some time with its lack of glam. Now, it’s as if it was built brand new, the front face of what was previously the lighting and sound booth was given an update with light rock and new windows. The booth will now serve as an open bar for guests. Other updates made to the amphitheater were rock benches put in, new concrete staining, rails along the ends, new concrete terraces to allow for seating, a new stage, and a new long-lasting roof.

We are so excited for the grand debut of the Discoveryland Ranch in May of 2022 and to watch this land receive even more love from the community. To follow along with their updates Click Here to follow them on Facebook or Click Here to check out their brand new website!

 

Discoveryland




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.

Emily Cowan

Discoveryland

Emily is a two-time published author of "Abandoned Oklahoma: Vanishing History of the Sooner State" and "Abandoned Topeka: Psychiatric Capital of the World". With over two hundred published articles on our websites. Exploring since 2018 every aspect of this has become a passion for her. From educating, fighting to preserve, writing, and learning about history there is nothing she would rather do.

If you wish to support our current and future work, please consider making a donation or purchasing one of our many books. Any and all donations are appreciated.

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Emily Cowan

Emily is a two-time published author of "Abandoned Oklahoma: Vanishing History of the Sooner State" and "Abandoned Topeka: Psychiatric Capital of the World". With over two hundred published articles on our websites. Exploring since 2018 every aspect of this has become a passion for her. From educating, fighting to preserve, writing, and learning about history there is nothing she would rather do.

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