ARDMORE — University of Oklahoma president David Boren sat down with Joe Castiglione and Bob Stoops for a small press conference following Wednesday morning’s Board of Regents meeting, and almost immediately kicked off the fundraising for the $370 million needed to upgrade Gaylord Family — Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
“I know that our athletics director and our football coach and other members of the staff would be happy to meet anyone who is hearing me now and feels moved already to offer generous support for this project,” Boren said with a smile. “We are available. The phone lines are open as they like to say on occasions like this. This is not only the adoption of this master plan; it is the official launching of the private fundraising campaign to make this a reality.”
Wednesday, the regents approved the massive stadium upgrade plan, which include a new south end zone complex that will fill in the open corners, creating a full bowl, and substantial additions to team facilities below the south stands. Those facilities will include a new weight room, equipment room, new team areas, coaches’ offices and the relocation of the athletic offices that are currently housed in the north end zone.
Other projects will include demolishing the current press box and constructing a new one, expanded fan concourses and new fan plazas, as well as 43 additional restrooms — the stadium currently has seven — 69 new concession stands, guest services and team stores.
The huge amount of money needed to complete these projects will come entirely from private fundraising, revenue bonds and other athletics department funds, a fact Boren made painstakingly clear only two days after the board approved a nearly 5 percent increase in tuition.
“We’re not taking money that we could use to teach classes or house students or pay professors and handing it over to the athletics department,” Boren said.
The plan approved Wednesday has been in the planning stages for months, and Castiglione said it was drawn up to give his department flexibility with its implementation.
“This conceptual plan … is designed to allow us to move forward in any phase we want, depending on the amount of funding that is available,” Castiglione said. “It could be done in two phases or it could be done in a singular phase. We’ve basically created the most amount of flexibility, allowing us to maximize the generous gifts of people that support our program and moving forward, hopefully in an accelerated fashion.”
If forced to incrementally implement the plan, Castiglione said OU would first tackle the south end zone renovation, then the press box and then make smaller changes to the north and east sides of the stadium.
Boren said he hoped the work in the south end zone would be completed by the start of the 2016 season, with construction beginning after the upcoming season is completed.
Overall stadium capacity isn’t expected to increase by much if at all.
“We had a little bit of a hint that the stadium capacity, while it might change in a small way, wasn’t going to be part of it,” Castiglione said. “We set out to make it a better experience for our fans, and we certainly have done that when you look at everything that was presented, whether it is the services, the concessions, embracing of the technology; it’s a way that fans want to experience the game.”