Parks And Rec: A Sweeping Success Story

Tony Moore ’92 started in the theme park business more than two decades ago with a broom in his hand. Today, he’s the park director of A Gathering Place for Tulsa. Photo by Shane Bevel

By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. (Sept. 1, 2016) – A broom and a pan. That’s all it took to set in motion Tony Moore’s successful 30-year career in the hospitality and entertainment industry.

As a college student, the Class of 1992 alumnus picked up a part-time, entry-level job in operations at Sea World. He put his ego aside and got to sweeping.

“I was able to humble myself, realize it was a job and be the best that I could be at it,” Moore said.

That mindset is what helped Moore work his way up the leadership ladder at some of the biggest names in the theme park world and most recently land him the role of park director for A Gathering Place for Tulsa. A project of George Kaiser Family Foundation, the new park will span nearly 100 acres of Tulsa’s waterfront along the Arkansas River.

Moore grew up in Jamaica with his grandparents and uncle. College brought him to the United States, and since his father lived in Orlando, he decided to attend Valencia for two years before transferring to UCF.

He can remember when Dr. John C. Hitt was named UCF’s president.

“I’m quite pleased to see where the university has come,” Moore said. “At the time [I attended], it was a small university, but you could clearly see it was a university with ambition to be bigger than what it was.”

A business administration major, Moore got into the theme park business strictly by chance. His uncle worked at Sea World, and Moore lived less than 10 miles from the park for an easy commute.

As years went by, he took the opportunities that presented themselves.

He worked with Universal Studios and helped with the opening of Islands of Adventure. He returned to Sea World to dabble in marketing before serving as the director of operations for Discovery Cove. He eventually took on the role of Sea World’s Director of Environmental, Health and Safety Services.

When the parks were still owned by the Anheuser-Busch company, he migrated to St. Louis, Missouri, to work as the executive assistant to the CEO and learn about the corporate business. His work even brought him to Asia to explore the concept of international parks.

“The good thing about what Central Florida offered was the opportunity to learn so many different aspects of the business,” he said. “That diversity of experience is what positioned me for the next opportunity, which was the chief operating officer for Lowry Park Zoo and currently for my job here now in Tulsa.”

Tony Moore and his family

It was while he was at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo that he received a call about the park project in Tulsa. Moore was initially skeptical about moving his family away from the tourism mecca of Florida to Oklahoma, but when he talked to the leadership behind the park’s vision and visited the city, he knew he couldn’t say no.

A Gathering Place for Tulsa is the largest private gift to a public park in U.S. history and aims to be a cornerstone for the community while improving social, economic and environmental sustainability in the city. It is estimated to attract one million visitors annually.

“I was blown away with the mission behind the park and the true sense of provision and care for the city,” Moore said. “The mission side of the foundation is really what won me over.”

The park’s management team was thrilled to bring Moore aboard.

“His extensive knowledge base of park management, finance, marketing and facilities are unmatched,” said Jeff Stava, executive director and trustee of Tulsa’s Gathering Place, LLC. “Additionally, Tony is a family man who understands the vision of building an inclusive park for all Tulsans and is someone who leads by example. An extremely motivated and energetic leader, Tony will be a huge asset to the community as he works to bring the park to life.”

Moore’s job is to operate every aspect of the park and be responsible for every guest experience from entry to exit. He said his secret to success is management by wandering around – a leadership style he learned early in his career from the now president and COO of Universal Orlando Resort, Bill Davis.

“You have to get hands on. You can’t manage it from the office,” he said. “In addition to that, you have to have a passion for what you do. In the theme park business it’s long hours. It’s vacations, holidays, weekends. When families are choosing to seek time to spend together, you have to be there to operate the park. You have to have a passion for what you do, but it’s a lot of fun.”

Moore was announced as the park’s director in mid-August. After his initial introduction to the Tulsa community, he said he was pleasantly surprised how many Knights from the area contacted him.

“I had so many folks that reached out to me to say their kids went to UCF or they are from Central Florida and familiar with the university,” Moore said. “It was a proud moment for me to be associated with UCF.”

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