STILLWATER — When Bill Young arrived as a student at Oklahoma State in 1964, the seating capacity of Lewis Field was 39,000. The facility hadn’t been expanded since 1950, and a dirt track circled the football field. In one end zone, there were cedar trees and a scoreboard that was so bad "no high school would dare want it,” according to Young. "The stadium looked like an erector’s set,” Young explained. "The old press box looked like it had come off a submarine or something.” There was no weight room. Conditioning drills were conducted in the dirt basement of Gallagher Hall. "You’d get down there on these hair mats and have your offseason program,” Young said. "You’d come out of there with dirt in your nose and in your eyes. It was just a dust storm down there whenever anybody started running. It was atrocious.” On the plus side, with OSU being an agricultural school, the natural grass surface was immaculate. "The field was great,” Young said. After stints as a player, a graduate assistant/junior varsity coach (1968-69) and offensive/defensive line coach (1976-78), Young is back for another stint inside the program, this time as defensive coordinator. This OSU is nothing like the old OSU in terms of facilities. Young hardly recognizes the place. "It looks like they tore the old place down and built a new stadium,” Young said. "It’s hard to look out there right now and visualize what it could have looked like back when I played. It’s absolutely amazing what they’ve done facility-wise.” Through the years, various Band-Aids were applied to Lewis Stadium to hide its wounds. The most popular tale is paint being used to cover up the stadium’s rust. Not so, said OSU athletic director Mike Holder, who arrived as a golfer in 1966 and has remained ever since. "We didn’t even have enough money to buy paint to paint over the rust,” Holder said. "You had to look at it. That’s a vivid memory for me.” What began as Athletic Field in 1913 and initially seated 8,000 fans in 1920, the same piece of property has now become 60,218-seat Boone Pickens Stadium, with $282 million of renovations on the verge of completion — $47 million for the stadium’s south side; $55 million for the north side; $180 million for the west end zone, video scoreboards, etc. In the last two weeks, the team has moved into the training room, weight room, equipment room and dressing rooms. Next month, coaches will move into their offices. Asked if new facilities could be heavily influential in recruiting, Young said: "Oh, there’s no question. It’s going to help us immensely. When you drive into Stillwater and see the facilities now compared to the erector set they had when I was here, it’s not even the same. "We certainly are taking a huge, giant step, and we’re not stopping. We’re going to continue."
The "wow factor” of the new west end zone might be in the dramatic mood lighting and leather-bound details, but the improvements are more than cosmetic. The new weight room is 7,000 square feet larger than the current weight room. It will be utilized by far fewer people as all of OSU’s other athletes will continue to use the weight room below Gallagher-Iba. The new laundry facility includes five 100-pound load washing machines, a 75-pound machine and a 45-pound machine, and dryers so big you could fit linemen inside. OSU’s equipment manager estimates that his staff will be able to complete laundry in about half the time it took in the Gallagher-Iba facility. In the sports medicine arena, there are six more stations where players can have ankles and knees taped before practices and games, a full digital X-ray machine, and four new hydra pools, which are often used for injury rehabilitation. OSU previously had just one pool. The new pools have improved computerized technology to record data and twice as many jets. By Andrea Cohen
The specialized details
The locker rooms, theater room and hallways in the bottom level of the west end zone resemble a luxury, modern hotel and smell like a new car — or at least they will until the football players actually take over the space. With dark wood and silver details, black leather couches and pieces of glass with "OSU” etched above each locker, the space is so polished that it’s hard to imagine muddy 19-year old boys inhabiting it. But the designers said every step of the interior design was done with the players in mind. "From the materials we used in terms of cleaning ability, to the chairs designed to hold up to 300 pounds, to things like bathroom stalls designed extra wide so they can zip right in and out with shoulder pads on,” interior designer Jodi Chronister said. The area was designed not only with current players in mind, but future players as well. In the locker room, there are multiple lighting options, including several dramatic settings where orange light glows out from behind frosted glass above each of the 120 lockers. Other specialized details include power outlets in every locker to charge phones and ipods, ventilating areas for shoes and shoulder pads and small compartments that lock. While the downstairs is extremely modern, Chronister describes the upper level that includes all the coaches’ offices and position meeting rooms as "more executive.” "On the field level, it’s all about the orange, black and white and the ‘wow factor’ for recruits, getting them to walk in there and get excited,” Chronister said. "Upstairs, it has a different feel, more of an executive office feeling.” By Andrea Cohen
On the horizon
The football program isn’t the only team on campus getting new digs. Despite being built just 10 years ago, the men’s and women’s basketball teams’ locker rooms are scheduled to be gutted and doubled in size. OSU athletic director Mike Holder said the project is estimated to cost between $4 million and $4.5 million. The men’s locker room will take over the space both teams currently occupy, and the women’s locker rooms will be built beneath them. The basketball programs have been working to raise money privately for the remodel. Holder said no date has been set to begin the construction because all of the money is not yet in hand. Sources said they are getting close to having all the funds raised. By Andrea Cohen
Meanwhile, back in Norman...
While Oklahoma State has upgraded its facilities over the last three years with a giant shovel thanks to Boone Pickens, its instate rival has focused on steadily and consistently improving its facilities over many years. Currently, the University of Oklahoma is undergoing major renovations to its team locker and meeting rooms, all of which are expected to be completed by the fall. Last summer, OU began building indoor facilities for both its softball and baseball programs, which were finished before the start of the spring season. Baseball players say the indoor batting cage made a big difference in the Sooners going from a substandard hitting team to one of the best in the country. But the major renovations have been concentrated on the football program. During OU’s national championship season in 2000, the university began raising funds for a multi-phased project that included the addition of the upper deck on the east side of Memorial Stadium that increased capacity to more than 80,000 as well as the construction of the Everest Indoor Training Center, which since its completion in 2002, is where the football team practices during inclement weather. By Jake Trotter