NORMAN — On Tuesday, one of the nation’s premier softball programs took another step toward playing and training in one of the premier stadiums. The University of Oklahoma Board of Regents approved revised design phase plans and updated programming information for a new $22 million softball facility.
It is proposed that the new softball home be located at the northwest corner of Jenkins Avenue and Imhoff Road, approximately one-half mile south of the current facility. This plan alters the previous masterplan for renovation of the present location to allow space for implementation of the required programmatic facility elements, make further use of adjacent athletics facilities and take advantage of existing parking in the immediate vicinity.
“We have spent a considerable amount of effort reviewing this project and working to achieve the best possible result,” said OU Vice President and Athletics Director Joe Castiglione.
“We determined that this was the best route to take in developing a facility that not only rates among the best in the nation, but fits with our other athletics sites located in the same vicinity.
“While we’re pleased with the planning phase, we must now turn to our support base and seek the funding assistance we need to bring this project to fruition. I am confident we can build a sustainable financial model.”
In recent years, the current OU Softball Complex has been stretched beyond its seating capacity of 1,378. On May 26, with the addition of temporary bleachers, a record crowd of 1,927, one of 18 sellouts during the 2018 season, watched the Sooners defeat Arkansas 9-0 in the NCAA Super Regional championship game. That kind of interest has stressed not only the seating capacity, but also the services available to those visiting the facility. It is projected that the new facility will have capacity for 3,000 fans.
In terms of other fan amenities, the current concept, which is subject to updates and alterations, includes three concessions stands with a total of 11 points of sale (an increase of nine) and six restrooms (an increase of 60 fixtures). Other changes include a 10,000 square-foot indoor practice facility, which is nearly double the size of the current facility, and several team spaces including a training room, locker room and classroom.
“This will be one of the finest facilities in the country and give us a real boost in training and recruiting,” said OU Softball Head Coach Patty Gasso. “It also allows us to serve our great fans with the kind of amenities they deserve.”
The construction timeline for the project, which will be funded in its entirety by the athletics department and donors, is yet to be determined.
“It’s important to remember that we are still in a concept phase relative to the actual design of the stadium, “Castiglione said. “What we’re seeing today is at the foundation of our planning and we have the flexibility to make changes provided they fit within the budget.”
Oklahoma’s softball program is one of the most successful in NCAA history. It has made 12 appearances in the Women’s College World Series and won NCAA championships in 2000, 2013, 2016 and 2017. OU is the only program to hold a top-25 ranking in all 353 weeks of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association poll, which began in 1995.