NORMAN — Former Oklahoma football coach Barry Switzer doesn't believe Gaylord Family — Oklahoma Memorial Stadium needs to get much bigger.
“You don't want more than 90,000 people here,” Switzer said. “We're a small state and you want them to fight for those tickets and it be a premium for them to come to Oklahoma games.”
But there are plenty of areas where the stadium could use improvements and upgrades, which is why the athletic department will soon begin a feasibility assessment for improvements. The Board of Regents reviewed plans for the assessment at Wednesday's meeting in Lawton.
“We're initiating a comprehensive review of one of the most tradition-rich sporting venues in the country and our ability to attract and train the country's top student-athletes and serve the best fans in college football,” OU athletic director Joe Castiglione said in a news release.
As other major programs have upgraded and expanded their football stadiums in the past decade, Oklahoma has largely left its alone since its last major upgrade — including east-side suites, the new upper deck addition and concourse expansion — was completed in 2003.
Oklahoma State dramatically improved Boone Pickens Stadium, creating some of the Big 12's most impressive football facilities. Those upgrades have had an undeniable impact on recruiting, which many believe has taken a slight dip in Norman in recent years.
The Sooners already addressed one potential recruiting problem in facilities with the August opening of Headington Hall, the brand new, state-of-the-art residence hall for student athletes.
“I think it'll definitely help and help recruiting,” coach Bob Stoops said of the potential stadium upgrades. “I think everything here … is as good as there is in the country. But there's other things. I won't be specific about it but it will be a major positive for everybody in this building.”
The coming assessment will consider virtually every aspect of the stadium's features and operations, including team facilities, fan amenities, concessions and the press box.
Oklahoma developed its football stadium “Master Plan” in 1993, with early projects including the Barry Switzer Center, west-side suites and turf replacement, among others.
The Master Plan was updated in 2000, with those upgrades being completed in 2003.
Populous, a Kansas City, Mo.,-based architecture firm, will review and update the Master Plan. The same firm developed the original plan and the 2000 upgrades.
Funding for the 2013 Master Plan update is already available from the Athletics Department capital fund.
Although he isn't in favor of the stadium getting much bigger, Switzer didn't mince words when it came to discussing the stadium's press box.
“It's a wart sitting on a princess; that's the first thing cosmetically,” Switzer said. “They all know that. Getting rid of a press box doesn't help you recruiting. It doesn't get you a player or lose a player. But it does build new suites; it could generate the income to build itself.”