Castiglione says stadium will be ready

Oklahoma Athletic Director Joe Castiglione gives us the skinny on the stadium and answers all the important questions, including the proper alignment of the reflecting pond.

NORMAN, Okla. — A proud Joe Castiglione gave an update on the progress and a sneak peek at the $70 million renovation and expansion project underway at the corner of Jenkins and Lindsay, also known as the Gaylord Family Memorial Stadium, to a handful of media members Thursday afternoon.

"We're in the final stages now and we're starting to feel very good about the entire project," Castiglione said. "It's coming together very nicely and it's everything we envisioned at the outset."

"It will be ready in time for kickoff on August 30, no question." Castiglione confirmed. "Flintco has done an amazing job and we can see the end now. You may remember when we announced this project in 2000. At that time our goal was to have it substantially finished and ready for the 2003 season. That was, to say the least, an ambitious timeline. Normally, a project of this magnitude would consume at least 36 months. Obviously, the structural work is now complete and we're finishing the trim, on time."

"Our goal from the outset was to renovate, upgrade and expand the stadium. It was a very complicated mission, as we first had to adequately evaluate the structural condition of an 80 year-old facility and determine how much was needed in insure its' future integrity. We set out to improve the amenities plus provide suites, club seating and also meet the demand of a huge waiting list for tickets."

"I have to mention that we've had a lot of help from numerous firms, departments, organizations and governments in all kinds of areas you may not readily think of. Things like relocation of utilities and streets, drainage and easments required enormous coordination with all the other construction projects underway on this campus. And while I'm mentioning people that have made it happen, I need to acknowledge the vast number of donors who contributed to this, not to just get it done, but rather to build something special, and worthy of the tradition of the school."

"We could have done this for less, but we have a unique situation here as our stadium nearly sits in the heart of the campus. Therefore it was important that the stadium and the improvements complimented the existing architecture of the campus, and not detract from it. I think I may be as proud of that as any one thing, when finished next year, it will be a beautiful facility."

Castiglione mentioned that he was inundated with e-mails about various aspects of the project, and always surprised at the details that some people wanted to get into. One scribe asked if he would elaborate on perhaps the most unusual request.

Castiglione replied, "I've gotten quite a bit of e-mail stemming from a vigorous discussion on regarding the reflecting pond just off the north entry and whether it's ‘on center' or off center. That's probably been the most interesting debate yet."

"Well is it off center?" The reporter asked.

"Totally depends on your perspective, the AD replied. "Remember, the reflecting pond goes back to the earliest days of the stadium, when there was no north end-zone. So the reflecting pond was centered on the entrance to the field house, and if you look north from the stadium to the Fieldhouse, the pool aligns perfectly with the entrance, but looking to the south from the field house, it's not aligned with the new entry to the stadium. But we defer to history here, so we left it as it's been for at least 75 years or so."

Casitiglione mentioned several times that the stadium would not be finished until Phase II is completed next summer. When asked to detail Phase II, Castiglione said, "After this season we'll start on the renovation of the west side. The project will include quite a bit of brickwork, to bring the west side into perfect harmony with the east, then complete rebuilding of the concessions and bathrooms and the completion of the perimeter decorative fence and gates. We'll also do something to bring the press box more architecturally in harmony with the rest of the stadium, but those plans are not yet finalized."

When asked about specific improvements and amenities, Castiglione gave these details:

Jenkins Street - "Will be finished, paved, but probably will not be open for vehicular traffic until mid-September. The street will be deeded back to the City of Norman at the completion of the project. There will be no restricted access to any game this season. All gates will be operating and open."

Seating Capacity - "Somewhere around 81,000. We honestly won't know for a few more weeks, we have not had the ticket office in yet to check their manifest and see if it lines up with what's really there. But by the first game, all of that will be completed.

Video and sound upgrades – "The south scoreboard is being refitted to house the new video screen. It will be in the new HDTV (wide) format with better definition, (approximately one third higher at 34 pixels vs the old 23 pixels), than the old screen. The new video screen is considerably larger, (primarily wider), than the former unit, making it necessary to relocate the speakers that used to flank each side. The sound equipment is also new and improved. On the north end, a matrix video board is being installed. This board will carry the usual fan messages, (‘D–Fense,' ‘TD!' etc.) as well as customized text messages. Each deck overhang will host a scrolling text message board for score updates, etc). All will be in place and operational by the first game."

Memorial Obelisk (monument) – "Will be on the northwest corner of the stadium, and completed sometime in November, in time for the final game. In keeping with the historical objective of the Memorial Union and Stadium project, the memorial will honor OU students, faculty and staff that have died in military duty. It will mirror the limestone trim on the stadium."

Grand Opening – "We won't have our ribbon cutting until next year. We decided that we want to totally finish the project before we dedicate it, in consideration of all the people that made it possible, right down to the last brick."

Massive amount of materials needed – "Over 1 million brick, 7,000 pieces of limestone, 16,000 cubic yards of concrete, 36 miles of electrical conduit, 20,000 sq feet of glass and 170 miles of electrical cable and over 4,000 new light fixtures.

Heights of east and west sides – "The top of east deck is 154' above ground level, while the top of the press box sits at 168'.

Sooner fans still on the ticket waiting list – "Unknown, but it hasn't gone down by too much."

Note: James Hale is still salavating over the Boston Red Sox in Arlington, (before totally becoming immersed in Sooner football) - giving me the rare opportuity to be a reporter for a day and have a ball. Thanks to Joe C, (and thanks James - this is actually harder than I thought! Hurry back soon).

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