The NCAA announced Thursday morning a long-term agreement that will keep Oklahoma City as the top destination for softball.
The Women’s College World Series will remain at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium through 2020 and likely through 2035, becoming the third long-term agreement the NCAA has with a city to host a championship event.
“I think Oklahoma City is the mecca of softball and it stands certainly on its own two feet,” NCAA executive vice president of championships and alliances Mark Lewis said. “What we do in Omaha for the College World Series in Division and what we do here for Division I Women’s College World Series, they’re our longest standing agreements. When you look at the nature of the event, baseball and softball lend itself to this kind of environment.”
The possible extension through 2035 will be triggered based on scheduled improvements to the stadium, which include new press amenities, permanent outfield bleachers, and a triple-deck structure behind home plate. The dugouts were also improved before this weekend’s tournament.
“It’s a commitment both directions,” ESPN analyst and former Oklahoma State star Michele Smith said. “The people in the sport have committed to Oklahoma City and Oklahoma City has made a commitment back to the sport. It’s not just the Women’s College World Series, but Team USA International competition.
“It’s exciting something we’ll have that’s Omaha quality, that every child that grows up playing softball wants to get to Oklahoma City.”
The NCAA extended its agreement with Omaha for the College World Series 25 years in 2008. It also reached an agreement in December with Oregon to host the track and field championships beginning in 2015 through 2021.
Oklahoma City began hosting the WCWS in 1990 and has every year since, except 1996 when the Olympic venue in Columbus, Ga., hosted the tournament.
“It’s a two-tiered funding solution that gets us to 2020 and 2035, but in some respects it’s remindful that there are young girls, young women who are not even born yet who will be a part of this agreement,” Oklahoma City mayor Mick Cornett said. “We feel like this really solidifies Oklahoma’s appreciation of the NCAA and also shows that we care deeply about this event and feel like it’s ours. Now, we’re stepping up to the plate.”
Cornett estimated the total cost of all improvements to the stadium will finish around $20 million, but noted that not all of that money comes from taxes as some philanthropic donations and naming rights have contributed.
He also said the impact the WCWS has on Oklahoma City is immeasurable.
“I think the worldwide attention that this event brings to Oklahoma City probably has benefits that are difficult to measure but I think are very, very real,” Cornett said.