Joni Rogers-Kante grew up going to the Tee-Pee Drive-In just west of Sapulpa OK. The drive-in, sometimes spelled “Teepee,” lived a good long life from 1950 into the 1980s, then went dark off and on until its final shows in 1999.
Meanwhile, Rogers-Kante founded SeneGence USA. A few years ago, she got the idea of bringing Sapulpa’s drive-in back to life, and after many months of work, it’s ready to hold its grand opening on April 15. There’s a nice video about those plans on YouTube; too bad I couldn’t embed it for you here.
Technically, the Tee Pee sort of reopened last October, according to a story in the Tulsa World. It wasn’t quite finished, but it had enough together to show a couple of Halloween-themed films.
The screen was always in decent shape, though it looks better than ever now. The real trick to reopening the Tee Pee, in my opinion, was finding a way to overcome its traffic issue. Just a couple of years ago, there were two ways to reach the drive-in. You could loop around to the west and return east over a couple of twisty, slow miles of the original Route 66, now Ozark Trail. Or you could find a way across the 99-year-old Rock Creek Bridge, which recently reopened as a one-lane, 4-ton-rated bottleneck. (A third path might be to cut through the back of the VFW Hall’s parking lot.)
The Tee Pee’s owners neated sliced through that Gordian knot. They got a new road built to cover the one block from the current 66 to Ozark Trail, curling around the back of the viewing field. I’m a little chagrined that I never considered that elegant solution.
If you want to read more about the Tee Pee’s long history, pick up a copy of my book, Drive-Ins of Route 66, preferably the second edition, which had more photos and was correct more often. Just be sure to cross out the line that says “Closed: 1999”.