A new weight room, coaches offices and fan amenities. Then a pressbox and luxury suites above the west-side upper deck. Eventually a new video screen for the north end to match the massive board on the south end.
The proposed renovation plan for OU’s Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium will be unveiled to the university’s board of regents Wednesday in Ardmore, but the construction is contingent on athletic department fund-raising that will require the project be completed in three stages.
Some OU donors for several years have pushed for improvements to the stadium, but sources say OU president David Boren has closely managed the progress of the plan because of the shaky nature of higher education funding and fund-raising in the state. Boren does not want the project to affect the university’s ability to raise money for academic pursuits.
Boren and the regents are expected to require the athletic department to have the funding in place for the first phase to be approved sometime early next year. More than $100 million is needed for the renovation of the Switzer Center, with an expanded weight room and new coaches offices, plus fan amenities, which could include new bathrooms, concession areas, wider concourses and plaza areas for fans to gather. The entire project is not expected to increase the current stadium capacity of 82,112, which routinely is exceeded by a few thousand. In fact, it’s possible the capacity could decline, though the luxury suites are expected to generate more than enough revenue to offset any decline in total number of fans.
If approved, Switzer Center construction could begin at the end of the 2015 season, and sources say OU officials believe the bulk of the work would be completed for the opening of the 2016 season.
Texas “A&M is finishing their $400 million (stadium) deal,” said an OU booster who has been lobbying for the upgrades. “TCU’s stadium is better than JerryWorld. Baylor’s is going to be out of this world. You know what Oklahoma State did. Finally OU is joining the party, it looks like.
“The frustrating thing, we’re behind in all these things. We see what it did for Oklahoma State. Went from the bottom of the Big 12 to fighting for the top, just because of nice facilities. That’s what it’s all about in this day and time.”
The second phase — a massive edifice above the west upper deck — would start after completion of the Switzer Center, again, if the money is raised. That construction cost could exceed $200 million. The price tag on all three phases approaches $400 million.
“I think they’ll be able to get it done,” said the booster. “Nothing’s easy. The good part about it is, it looks like they’re going to get started. And you gotta look at the bright side.”
In his 20 years as OU’s president, Boren has been a master not only at fund-raising but at choosing the right times to fund raise. The same caution and control he has shown on the stadium project, he has shown on a variety of massive academic projects as well.
And both athletic director Joe Castiglione and football coach Bob Stoops have been respectful of that process. Stoops consistently has said he has everything he needs to win, though OU’s once-pristine weight room has fallen behind many others in the Big 12 and nationally in terms of size.
The weight room in the Switzer Center is used by virtually all the OU varsity teams, though the football has a smaller weightlifting facility in the Everest Indoor Training Center.
Earlier this month, when Stoops was asked if his team could use a football-only facility, he took the high road. “We have one,” Stoops said. “Our locker room, our entire area, is football only.”
But sources say Stoops has wanted, and been promised, a new weight room.
Boren apparently has decided the time is right for the launch of the project. Now it’s up to Castiglione’s fund-raising efforts, through the Boren parameters, to transform one of college football’s meccas.
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