The first phase of the building project at the University of Oklahoma's Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium will be completed prior to the 2016 season after the University's Board of Regents today approved the design and development elements with an estimated project budget of $160 million. This facet of the project will focus on the south end zone.
OU President David Boren described the plan as “focused and prudent.” It will focus on our priorities and it is appropriately scaled to reflect the uncertainty of economic conditions caused by low oil and gas prices.” Boren also stressed that no state appropriated funds and no tuition would be used. Funding will come solely from private gifts and athletics revenues.” Boren concluded.
“We stated from the beginning that our priorities were student-athletes and fans, and this work allows us to serve both of those groups,” said University of Oklahoma President David L. Boren. “We have taken the prudent step of phasing the project, which enables to us to take a reasonable approach to construction and funding.
“Fundraising and sales have gone exceedingly well and, and as with all Athletics Department endeavors, we will undertake this project with no burden to taxpayers, students or central campus budgets. The project will be constructed entirely from Athletics Department generated capital funds, bond funds and other private sources. These sources will fully fund all construction, bond payments, and related operational expenses with the appropriate reserves and contingencies.”
Funds generated by stadium revenues provide a cushion of almost $5 million per year over and above recovery bond payments. A very conservative assumption of only 80% occupancy was used in modeling the finances. “We wanted to be on the conservative side,” Boren said.
The most visible aspect of this phase will result in completing the south end zone seating bowl, a feature that will initially increase the seating capacity to more than 84,000 seats. As future adjustments to aisles and handrails are made, that capacity could decrease though it is not known yet to what extent. A portion of the current south end zone structure, which includes some stadium seating, football operations, the training room and strength training facility, will be razed and reconstructed.
“This project reflects our goals of providing a world class facility for our student-athletes and adding more opportunities to engage fans and create memorable experiences for them,” said Joe Castiglione, Vice President and Director of Athletics. “We've been on a steady and diligent pace with our partners on this project and have developed something very special that meets our needs and gives Oklahoma a competitive advantage.”
The new building will allow for all student-athlete services to be moved to the ground floor. That space will include a new locker room, strength and conditioning room, training room, nutrition center, meeting rooms and the equipment operation. Student-athletes from all 21 OU sports will benefit from the space. The weight room will nearly triple in size to 26,600 square feet and include a 70-yard indoor turfed speed and agility training area. The athletic training room also will grow substantially to nearly 10,000 square feet.
“Our efficiency improves greatly in this new layout,” said OU Head Football Coach Bob Stoops. “The players will have access to essential services all within a few steps of each other in a facility that will be among the best in the country. The impact it will have on our recruiting will be significant. This entire project is a tremendous help to our program.”
The third floor of the building will house all of the football offices and the team's video department. The seating bowl will feature an expanded concourse, additional restrooms and concessions, and other amenities. The new structure will feature 22 suites, 60 open-air loge boxes and 1,976 club seats. Those club patrons will benefit from two new clubs. Private fundraising is complete for all of the end zone suites. Among the most unique features of the new south end zone facility will be a pair of open-air fan plazas, one each in the southwest and southeast corners. They will each measure at slightly more than 3,000 square feet each and feature a view directly to the game field.
“The in-stadium plazas introduce a great new element,” Castiglione said. “They will make a direct impact on the atmosphere in the stadium during games while providing fans a unique vantage point. We'll also have the option of bringing in additional seating for those areas for games of particularly high demand.”
Castiglione said that fan reaction to the project has been good. “Our fan base is energized by this project, something we've learned in our many face-to-face meetings” Castiglione said. “There's a lot of anticipation of the new aspects we'll be introducing and approval for bowling in the stadium. It is very popular and we're seeing that in our fundraising and sales efforts.”
When original design concepts were introduced, they also included work on the west side of the stadium. Castiglione said that work will proceed only when scheduling and funding allow.
“As is always the case, we're taking a responsible approach to our projects,” he said. “As the funding becomes available and the schedule permits the work on additional elements of the master plan will progress.”
Oklahoma's primary partners on this project are the Populous architectural firm and FlintCo Construction.