NORMAN -- The renewed excitement surrounding Oklahoma football began with one of its most memorable victories in recent history, a stunning 45-31 Sugar Bowl upset of two-time defending national champion Alabama.
It carried over through signing day, when Bob Stoops’ staff closed in a great way, securing a 2014 class that includes five-star running back Joe Mixon. One national publication has already named OU as its pick to win the 2014 national championship.
A Sunday night report of imminent stadium renovations only fueled the already red-hot fire, but according to OU sources, fans might need to curb their enthusiasm — at least for now.
The OU athletics department is expected to announce major upgrades to Gaylord Family — Oklahoma Memorial Stadium later this year, but any potential changes are still very much in the planning stages, multiple sources told The Oklahoman on Monday.
Oklahoma City’s KWTV-9 reported Sunday night that the massive stadium upgrade plan had been “approved” and would cost between $350-400 million. The report also said seating capacity would be expanded to near 90,000; seats would be added to form a bowl in the South end zone; and that the upgrade would include a new press box and suites.
The report also indicated that OU plans to begin work on the project immediately following the 2014 home finale Dec. 6 with the hope that it would be completed by the 2015 season opener.
Sources said Monday that the stadium upgrades haven’t even been through a competitive bidding process yet, so any estimated price tag would be speculative; and one source said there’s “no way” a project of this magnitude could be completed by the start of the 2015 season.
Sources did confirm that bowling off the South end zone is a possibility that has been discussed, but added it isn't a lock to be included in final renovation plans.
Even if additional seats and suites are added, though, the stadium’s capacity isn’t expected to rise much beyond its current 82,112.
In October, the athletic department began a feasibility assessment for improvements to the football stadium’s “Master Plan,” which was developed in 1993 and updated in 2000.
Populous, a Kansas City, Mo.,-based architecture firm, developed the original plan and the 2000 upgrades, and the firm was designated in October to review and update it this time.
The stadium upgrades will represent the first major work on the football stadium in about a decade. Stadium capacity grew by nearly 10,000 when the east upper deck and suites were added in 2003 and 2004.
The OU Board of Regents is meeting in a few days in Norman, but sources with knowledge of the stadium renovation planning said if anything is discussed at this week’s meeting, it will be general and non-specific, as regents and donors haven’t seen any proposals or artist renderings yet.
When the plans are finalized and approved by the regents, one source said, money for the project will come through a fundraising campaign that hasn't even started yet.