The Community Center was completed in July 2008 and is in use.
The originating philosophy of Vision 2025 was “seed projects”, or public projects that provide a springboard for additional projects to advance community goals throughout Tulsa County. The Tulsa County Park Department results at LaFortune Park are a dramatic example of this multiplying effect.
Now open at 5202 South Hudson Avenue, the Buddy LaFortune Community Center, named for the long-time Tulsa County Park Board Chairman, replaces a tiny building on the Yale Avenue side of the park. The new Center connects to a historic brick structure that was once a portion of the long-gone Tulsa County Poor Farm, and the historic portion now houses pottery classes and activities. The half-court basketball gym can host adult volleyball games and dance classes, and the new reception room can be rented for family reunions, weddings and other events. The many new spaces allow the activities to take place at the same time.
Tulsa County Parks Director Richard Bales said, “The Community Center is the completion of a 25-year dream to bring recreational programs to the park to complement the other activities the park has offered the citizens of Tulsa County for years. Tulsa County parks serve both citizens and visitors and, as budgets allow, will grow based on public response to our programs. Public comment to date on LaFortune’s new facilities and services has been tremendously enthusiastic.”
Making the Center unique, it is the only major facility in the area to share space with a library. The Community Center has 13,000 square feet, the Kaiser Library has 10,000 square feet, and the two facilities share an entry rotunda. The Community Center was funded by Vision 2025, and the library and sculpture garden were funded entirely by private donors.
Glenda Kilmer, Branch Manager of the library, said the collaboration began when an old library near Woodland Hills Mall was relocated south. Kilmer said, “The people in this area were no longer easily served by the Tulsa City-County Library System. The intent was to find land somewhere between Memorial and Harvard along 51st Street to locate a new branch to serve this midtown area. In discussion, County officials and Library officials decided that with Vision 2025 there was an opportunity to multiply efforts. Tulsa County owns the land, but it is leased to the library system for $1 for 99 years,” Kilmer added.
“We opened June 23, 2008, and already our traffic at this location is up 57 percent from the previous site. Of those who visited in the first few months, over 600 did not even have a library card,” Kilmer added.