NORMAN – Oklahoma will officially move into its new home in the Southeastern Conference on July 1, 2024. On Tuesday, the University of Oklahoma’s Board of Regents took another important step to ensure the Sooners — and the athletic facilities they call home — fit in among their future conference foes.
An estimated $175 million project budget for a new, “modern” OU football facility included approximately $390 million in funding for the expansion and improvement of athletic facilities, approved by Regents after a meeting Tuesday afternoon. Additional budget approvals include construction of a $75 million student and athlete success center and funding for renovation and upgrade work that will directly impact a dozen other sports programs beyond football.
All projects are funded through a combination of private and athletic department funds.
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At a meeting on November 30, 2022, the Regents voted to approve the selection of architectural firm HOK to oversee the upcoming football facilities project. Developments on Tuesday included a request to hire a site manager to work with the architect and formal approval of the project’s nine-figure budget
The future home of the Sooners’ football program will be adjacent to Oklahoma Memorial Stadium and will include upgraded facilities for strength and conditioning, recreation, nutrition, sports medicine and hospitality, as well as meeting rooms, coach offices and two new practice fields OU Athletics Director Joe Castiglione.
“It’s a comprehensive facility for football operations,” Castiglione said on Tuesday. “So everything you can think of.”
Castiglione called the fundraising for the project “ongoing” and no public timeline has been set for the opening of the football facility.
Tuesday’s approval comes less than five years after the official dedication of the Switzer Center — OU’s current football facility — in May 2018. Future plans for the building could include academic offices and other support services for students and athletes, as well as additional space for the OU’s studios and offices SEC Network to accommodate other OU sports programs.
The estimated $175 million asking price will not only put the Sooners on par with their soon-to-be conference peers in the SEC, but could (at least temporarily) set the new standard in a facilities boom that has unfolded across major college football the last two decades.
In 2013, Oregon unveiled a gleaming $68 million football facility that became the paragon of the time for football programs across the country. Ten years later, OU will launch its new football-specific facility at 2.5 times the price.
Of the four SEC football programs to completely overhaul facilities since 2021, none have eclipsed a budget that exceeds the $91.9 million Auburn spent on the Woltosz Football Performance Center, which opened late last year. Opened in August 2022, Heavener Football Training Center in Florida was built at an estimated $85 million. Georgia’s recent football-specific development cost the Bulldogs $80 million; South Carolina has spent $50 million on the new facility it will call home in 2021.
Outside of the SEC, Nebraska could move into its $165 million football complex as early as this summer. The facility, for which the state of Florida broke ground in December 2022, is estimated at $75 million to $100 million.
“Comparative analyzes are always part of it,” said Castiglione. “Sometimes the media makes it look like they’re keeping up with the Joneses. I don’t think the quest to recruit the best and brightest is as competitive as it has ever been. And it’s a whole new landscape.”
“So we need to provide a comprehensive approach that makes Oklahoma the most attractive definition for the best and brightest, and do what we do best,” he continued. “Facilities are definitely a part of it and always will be.”
Tuesday marked the first meeting of Regents since OU secured its departure to the SEC in 2024. OU President Joe Harroz said the board will meet in the coming weeks to formally approve the early exit.
“Any loose ends will be tied up,” he said.
Castiglione teased plans for facilities beyond football after the November 2022 regents’ meeting. Tuesday came with approval for a $75 million Student-Athlete Success Center and upgrades that will benefit at least 12 additional programs on campus, including softball ($47.9 million), baseball ($45 million), gymnastics ($13.75 million) and golf. Tennis and athletics programs.
Also approved was a $9.5 renovation of the men’s and women’s basketball team suites at the Lloyd Noble Center.
On Monday, OU men’s basketball coach Porter Moser stated that his focus remains on a new venue for basketball. Castiglione stated Tuesday that OU is reviewing several plans related to a new arena and expects to learn more about the future home of the Sooners’ basketball programs.
“If we get the right results, we can make the best decision,” he said.