Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium: Closing a Seating Bowl and Opening Possibilities
September 9, 2016 / Denver Finlinson
This year marks both the 121st football season for the University of Oklahoma as well as a season of significant firsts. Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium has helped the Sooners become the winningest team in the Big 12 conference, but it’s set to become an even more intimidating venue for visitors beginning with the September 10 home opener thanks to a historic evolution.
Where space in the corners of the south end zone once sat empty, a brand new section of the stadium has risen, creating for the first time a 360-degree gameday experience. The entire process, from groundbreaking to opening, unfolded in only 10 months and allowed the Sooners to play on their home turf during the 2015 season. The end result is much more than just additional seating. As the lead designer on the project, I’m honored to walk you through some of the most exciting and notable features of the newly renovated Palace on the Prairie.
Since its opening in 1923, Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium always had open spaces. With the last major development being the addition of stands directly behind the south end zone in 1980, the seating bowl has existed as a horseshoe or “U” shape. The new renovations have filled those south corners with additional seating, concessions and public plazas for socializing while still in sight of the field. Even more importantly, the home crowd will sound nearly twice as loud on the field thanks to an added canopy and the acoustic effects of the newly-enclosed stadium.
Onsite Training Facilities
Aside from seating and fan amenities, the new stadium development also includes key spaces for student-athletes. To cut down on cross-campus travel time, the spaces underneath the stadium seating are now home to weight lifting, hydrotherapy, sports medicine and classroom facilities. The combined turf field and weight lifting area provide not only the football team with a convenient training location but all OU student-athletes with another facility to help them excel.
First-Ever Front Door
Arguably one of the more striking features of the new south end zone is its new exterior, more specifically the new front door to the stadium. Facing Lindsey Street, one of OU’s campus roads, the new brick façade gives stadium goers and passerby’s a sense of arrival. One of the key design focuses of the project, the new front door will greet everyone from visiting recruits to long-time donors.
Quality over Quantity
From the very start of the project, the school had a clear focus on giving its fans the best seats in the house as opposed to the most seats. The school recognized too much history and value in the stadium as it was, so the idea of constructing an entirely new stadium was quickly dismissed and the focus shifted to giving the best possible sightlines to every fan.
Canopy and New Loge Boxes
While the Sooners appreciate all of their fans, they wanted to design additional premium spaces in the new stadium. The new south end zone loge boxes offer great views of the playing field, and keep those watching from the outdoor spaces in the shade via a new canopy surrounding the south seating bowl. The canopy was designed to provide ample comfort for loge box ticket holders, while also providing unobstructed views of the scoreboard and field from the rest of the stadium. The top of the south end zone also has ample public space, so all ticket holders can enjoy the shade.
The new Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium renovations now completely surround the Sooners playing below and give a whole new energy to the gameday experience. At the end of the project, we’re extremely proud to have worked with the University of Oklahoma athletics and facilities teams to give the fans a special place that reflects the legacy of Sooners football.