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David's favorite projects: MVA

Published May 16, 2023
“It brings a smile to my face and joy to my heart"
Memorial Veterans Arena at Tulsa Memorial High School

David Reed gets a special kick each time he plays a round at Tulsa’s LaFortune Park Golf Course, for it always draws his eyes to a neighboring landmark: the beloved Memorial Veterans Arena.


“It brings a smile to my face and joy to my heart to see it there on the horizon,” Reed said. “I’m very grateful to have been a part of its creation.”


This Memorial High School project came with the first significant contract won by David Reed Architecture, which opened in 2009. Tulsa Public Schools hired Reed to develop a prototype arena that would enhance school safety while improving seating, visibility, access, and other amenities. TPS would then use this prototype to build new arenas at Booker T. Washington High School, Edison Preparatory Middle and High School, and Memorial.


Reed Architecture (which adopted the name Sparks Reed Architecture and Interiors in 2011) developed a field house design that uses a central entryway and encircling mezzanine to guide spectators into a seating bowl above the playing court. This gave fans wonderful game views while separating them from players, coaches, and referees.

Strict location demands and individual school needs helped set apart the first two arenas: Booker T.’s Nathan E. Harris Field House and Edison’s multi-sport athletic center. Each one drew distinctive design influences from its campus architecture styling.

Memorial presented fewer limitations. Situated on an open area between the main campus and the football stadium, the construction site held few restrictions. Memorial also lacked a dominant architectural style the arena needed to follow. This opened the door for the Reed team to craft something memorable.

By day, Memorial Veterans Arena presents a patriotic red, white, and blue entryway that inspires visitors before they leave their vehicles.


“It really looks like a Washington, D.C., memorial, with its pedestal and the prominence of the steps leading up to it,” said Reed. “That view builds a sense of reverence, excitement, and anticipation in everyone coming to see a game – and that’s a key thing you want your arena architecture to do.”

Memorial High School men's basketball teams have won four state championships since this arena opened in May 2014

Dynamic lighting enhances this majestic experience at night.

“It shines like a beacon,” said Reed. “With the arena looking down upon the parking lot, you approach those glowing steps with a growing sense of awe.”


Stepping into Memorial Veterans Arena heightens this excitement with an interior design that is both functional and inspiring. Patriotic themes run from the ceiling finishes to the floor’s colorful stars and stripes. These red, white, and blue touches wrap around the ticket booth, spirit store, and trophy cases while paying homage to each U.S. Military branch.

“The inside turned out way better than I ever imagined,” said Reed. “They even have a table set up for the missing soldier, which they maintain very eloquently.”

That color scheme continues through the hospitality suite and playing court, which received a designer paint job paid for by the Memorial High School Booster Club. Its donations also provided for a dynamic flag pavilion outside the entryway.


“Memorial raised the bar on what you do inside, and not just in getting your booster clubs engaged to fund those extra finishing touches,” said Reed. “What they did with that playing court caught fire across the state. Now you see high schools across Oklahoma – from 6A to 4A – trying to step up their court designs to inspire players and excite fans.”

The success of all three arenas inspired TPS and other high schools and colleges to seek out Reed Architecture designs.

Memorial Veterans Arena lobby, with ticket booth, spirt store, and trophy cases. The welcoming sign was added in 2022.

“Every school district we’ve gotten in the door with has asked us back and hired us to do more work,” said Reed. “Indeed, 91 percent of our clients are repeaters. It points to the fact that our team continues to perform and do good work that pleases our clients and keeps them wanting to work with us.


“It’s exciting stuff,” he said. “I’m so grateful for these opportunities to work with school districts, their athletic directors and principals, on projects that benefit not just students of today but for generations to come.”  


This leads to Reed’s strongest Memorial memories: working alongside former principal Darin Schmidt and former athletic director Robert Sprague, who served Memorial for 27 years in various roles.


“The knowledge and emotion they brought to this project were inspiring,” said Reed, who still speaks often to both men as the arena enters its 10th year of operation. “It was fun, just fun, to work with Robert and Darin and learn what Memorial High School is all about.”

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