NORMAN—The planned upgrades of Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium will affect Oklahoma’s football team at virtually every level — from the added space in the weight room to spacious meeting rooms for position groups to the impact the additions will make in recruiting.
But the changes, planned to begin after the 2015 season dependant on fundraising, will have a big impact on the fan experience as well.
OU athletic director Joe Castiglione expects the vast majority of fans to be pleased with the changes that will make the game experience a more comfortable one. But Castiglione knows there will be people who will be unhappy with how the changes affect them.
“There are fans who have sat in the same seat for a long time, people who have sat around the same group of people for 20 years,” Castiglione said. “There will be an answer for everybody but there won’t be a perfect solution for everybody.”
Oklahoma officials don’t quite know how many fans will be affected by the renovations, which could be finished as early as the 2016 season.
Once the exact plan is finalized, Castiglione said Sooner Club staff would be reaching out to affected season-ticket holders personally.
Two areas will be heavily affected — the south end zone and the west upper deck.
While there will be seats added in the south end zone as the stadium is bowled in on that end, seats are likely to be eliminated from the top of the sections on that end of the field.
On the west side, seats will be disrupted at the top and on the sides of the current upper deck as a third deck is added to mimic the east side and a new press box is constructed.
Several other factors will affect fans in other areas of the stadium.
Hand rails will be added around the stadium, and seat sizes will be made uniform.
While some bench seating will remain in certain areas of the stadium, the size of bench per seat is expected to be standardized at 18 inches when the renovations are complete.
That isn’t the case now.
Some bench seat spaces are as narrow as 14 inches. Some are 15 or 16 inches.
The addition of 43 restrooms, 11 elevators, 16 escalators, a new elevated concourse on the west side, 69 new concession points of sale and added wifi and cellular capabilities are meant to make the game experience more comfortable for fans.
“We’ve never, ever taken the support of our fans for granted,” Castiglione said. “I know something they’ll raise concerns. We know it; we hear it, and we want to hear from them. It’s a different world. It used to be where every Saturday, the football game started at the same time, no matter what. Now, they are at varying times.
“People have more demands themselves. People want more out of the game experience. There’s technology. There’s a lot of things. The concessions. The restrooms. Everything is important. Really every single thing is important because we want them to feel valued.”