The proposed new arena in Norman may host OU basketball.
Via Norman City Council
The OU men’s and women’s basketball teams may have a new home soon, with plans of a new expo center to be built in northern Norman.
Tuesday night, the City of Norman unveiled a plan to develop a new entertainment district that could become the home for Oklahoma basketball. Along with hosting Sooners basketball, the district would consist of restaurants, hotels and other amenities. The project has been put together by the City of Norman and the University of Oklahoma Foundation, both believing the new district will benefit the people of Norman.
“We’re really, really excited about the possibilities of the larger mixed-use development that we believe is not only exciting, but quite possible,” Guy Patton, President of the OU Foundation, said. “We imagine that, as a place where people live, they shop and they go to concerts and basketball games. It’ll be a really unique place, not just in Norman but in Oklahoma.”
The new district would be located between Rock Creek Road and Tecumseh Road, about six miles from OU’s campus. The University of Oklahoma has agreed "in principle" to be the multi-purpose arena’s anchor tenant, and Athletic Director Joe Castiglione said the university’s interest level is “very high.”
“The idea of creating an experience and an overall destination, in addition to the event itself, leads us to believe it will give us a lot more to offer our fans in terms of an experience,” Castiglione said. “It’s much more than purchasing a ticket — it’s making a determination that they want to take full advantage of the overall experience.”
Castiglione went on to say the arena would seat somewhere in the range of 10,000 versus the Lloyd Noble Center's current capacity of 11,528.
If the basketball teams were to move to this new arena, the LNC would still be used for university events. Castiglione said in the past they have had scheduling issues due to multiple events attempting to take place at the LNC in the same period of time. The new arena would solve these issues and would allow for local high school teams to play occasionally at the LNC.
“It’s no secret that the Lloyd Noble Center, while still a great facility — and whether this plan goes forward or not — would still be a viable venue for a variety of different events,” Castiglione said. “It can be complimentary to this new arena.”
One concern for OU in the past has been the low student attendance at games, but Castiglione believes this new arena and the district surrounding it would attract more students to games.
"We think of our event being part of a destination for overall enjoyment, and that relates to everything," Castiglione said. "We think in the long run, in what those offerings are, create a great dynamic to be even more attractive to students."
Coaches Lon Kruger and Sherri Coale are also looking forward to the possibility of a new home.
"Both are very excited about the opportunity it creates," Castiglione said. "They know the competition they face, they know what prospective student athletes are looking for, know the environment — they're very excited about the possibilities."
While OU believes the venue would be great for hosting home basketball games, they also believe it could host a variety of NCAA tournaments. Castiglione said they would have a good shot at hosting NCAA tournaments for basketball, gymnastics and volleyball.
Norman mayor Lynne Miller said they hope to have the project approved in the next few months, but for now Castiglione and the university look forward to the future.
“To be perfectly candid, we’re limited at where we are right now,” Castiglione said. “It’s the synergy of everything else going on in that part of the area that creates that dynamic environment that would attract more and more people to come to our games.”