A plan to develop 500 acres north of the current University North Park development was unveiled Tuesday, and it immediately elicited a significant amount of discussion. Below are answers to 10 of the most common questions we’ve heard.
Our information is based on what we’ve been told at three meetings regarding the plan: a Tuesday University North Park TIF advisory committee meeting, a Tuesday night city council study session and a Wednesday morning meeting with Norman Mayor Lynne Miller, OU athletic director Joe Castiglione and OU Foundation President and CEO Guy Patton. This FAQ is intended to merely provide information, and not state an official editorial board position, on the proposed development plan.
1. The development plan outlines some basic ideas about what could be built north of the current UNP development. The land is owned by the OU Foundation, which purchased it at market value from the University of Oklahoma, which in turn received the land from the federal government decades ago.
2. The plan is light on details, particularly financials. How much the development would cost, which company or companies would develop the land, what restaurants and other businesses would come to UNP and how much public funding would be used to incentivize development, remains to be decided.
3. Miller said the council will take at least several months to learn about the current University North Park TIF and the proposed plan before voting on it. If the plan were approved, a plan for how the development would be paid for, and any commitment of public dollars, would begin to be discussed.
4. If the council and a statutory TIF committee approves the plan and the financial components of the plan, Patton said the foundation would begin lining up developers to complete the project. The entire development could take five to 10 years to complete, although the arena would probably be the first project.
5. Consultants who presented the plan Tuesday said the goal would not be to bring in new retail business to the UNP, so as to not compete with other retail in UNP and the rest of Norman.
6. The proposed 10,000-seat arena would not be owned by the University of Oklahoma under the current plan. The arena would be owned by a private company, and OU would be an anchor tenant for the arena, leasing space for men’s and women’s basketball game days. The arena wouldn’t move forward without a commitment from OU, however — there are simply no other organizations who could serve as anchor tenants for the arena.
7. The number of seats for the arena are not finalized, although Castiglione said he would expect the arena to seat approximately that number. The Lloyd Noble Center seats roughly 11,500.
8. Speaking of the Lloyd Noble Center, it wouldn’t go anywhere, at least not right away. Castiglione said the LNC would be used as a practice facility for the basketball teams, a performance site for other OU athletic teams, a venue for public events, and a potential tournament venue for prep state tournaments. Currently, OU is limited to what NCAA and state prep tournaments it can host, due to having only one site.
9. Castiglione said OU is only interested in the arena as part of a larger, multi-use development, in order to provide fans with a game day experience. A stand-alone arena by itself north of the current UNP development is not something he said OU is interested in.
10. The arena would be used by NPS high schools at times and for concerts as well, according to consultants who presented the plan.