Castiglione not letting OU fall behind in facilities

Carey Murdock, Editor
Sooner Scoop

With the finishing touches being placed on the University of Oklahoma’s $160 million south endzone renovation, Joe Castiglione and the OU athletic department aren’t slowing down on other renovations across OU’s campus.

The Blake Griffin Performance Center has already broken ground on the south side of the Lloyd Noble Center. The $7 million dollar complex will give the Sooners an additional 18,400 square feet of space for basketball training courts, free weights, indoor turf, outdoor turf with sand pit, spaces for plyometric and cardiovascular training, cardio and strength testing, locker rooms, an exam and recovery area, a fueling station, a multi-purpose room and overhead fresh-air doors.

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University of Oklahoma

The Blake Griffin Performance Center is scheduled to be completed in February.

Castiglione and the OU athletics department also released their master plans to renovate L. Dale Mitchell Park and the OU Softball Complex back in May.

The Sooners are dumping $25 million ($15 million softball, $10 million baseball) to renovate both parks.

The expansion at the OU Softball Complex would almost double seating capacity, allow for more room for media coverage of the team with an expanded pressbox and provide better training facilities for the athletes.

The baseball renovations will do much of the same, providing a variety of new seating areas for fans on gamedays.

Now that the master plans have been released, Joe Castiglione says fundraising has begun for both projects.

“We actively engaged in not only some face-to-face meetings with prospective donors, but I guess you could call the quiet phase of a capital campaign for both (softball and baseball),” said Castiglione last month. “We have people who are interested in both. We’ve had a few people step forward after we announced the master plan a month ago. So we’re engaged in some discussions there.”

And behind the scenes, there are more master plans being developed for other projects according to Castiglione.

“That as well as some other projects we have for our men’s and women’s gymnastics program,” he hinted. “We’re also looking at some for tennis, and still discussing our plans for Lloyd Noble Center and that master plan.

“Obviously, like you, hoping the economy keeps growing. That helps the fundraising for sure. But it’s something that we’re trying to push each of the projects and get some commitments so we can move them forward as quickly as possible.”

As far as the football program is concerned, the master plan for the east side renovation still exists. Those plans haven’t gone away, but the economy will have to continue to improve before the athletic department is ready to launch a serious campaign to raise funds for that project.

In the meantime, OU’s Board of Regents have given the green light to develop a master plan for the northeast corner of Lindsay and Jenkins where the Bud Wilkinson House stands right now.

“This gives us the chance to begin the master planning process. We have a vision of what we'd like to see. It would be the center for all the key resources that we put in place for student-athletes, other than their sport-specific training and/or competition facilities,” said Castiglione.

Initially, the Memorial Stadium master plan was a bit bolder in building academic areas inside the stadium. But with the economy down and the need to start moving dirt, the plan quickly shifted to build an academic center where the Bud Wilkinson House stands.

Castiglione confirmed that the northeast corner is being developed with a student-athlete academic center in mind.

“Everything from academics to our career planning to how we evolve with the sports sciences - our leadership and mental health and resources to anything we think we can put in place to help contribute to creating that kind of unique experience for them,” he said. “In addition, because we are going to look at having to master plan that corner, we're considering how we can create a place on game day for our letter winners to come.”

Joe Washington, the Executive Director of the Varsity O. Association, has long been a proponent for special facilities for former players to congregate and enjoy games at Gaylord Family-Memorial Stadium.

It appears he’ll get something much more directed toward former players with the new master plan for the northeast corner.

“We've had Varsity O at different places, either in the McCasland Fieldhouse or when we've had volleyball games, we've had to locate them outside,” said Castiglione. “And that whole pregame event has grown quite a bit, so we're thinking about what we can do on the exterior to make it a great location for them to gather before games.

“So it's really that area that would be student-athlete centered, whether it's while they're here, even certainly some element to it for our former student athletes. They can feel welcome and they can come back."

With the development of Headington Hall and the south endzone, OU football is going through quite a transformation where facilities are concerned. The east side renovation will continue to be on the minds of fans every time they enter the stadium.

But even though that project isn’t ready yet, the university and Castiglione are not slowing down in their attempt to keep the Sooners at the very top of the college football arms race for better facilities.

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