University of Oklahoma (OU) officials are confirming that they are interested in moving into a proposed new arena, which would be built as part of an entertainment district.
Planning for the University North Park development is in the preliminary stages at this point, but the UNP development oversight committee has signed off on a preliminary master plan that covers the northern section of the UNP TIF. Within this area will be several features, including housing, office space, an expo center, and an entertainment district. In addition, the plan was discussed at a Norman City Council meeting on Tuesday.
There is still a considerable amount of discussion to take place, as the city council will have to study the proposal before voting on it. Approval from the city council would then lead to the plan being considered by a statutory TIF committee.
As it stands, there is not a formal commitment from OU to move into the facility, but the university is expressing an interest in moving its men’s and women’s basketball programs from the Lloyd Noble Center if it becomes a reality. OU athletic director Joe Castiglione said that the ability to tie the arena into a larger entertainment district appeals to the university. More from The Norman Transcript:
Castiglione said the arena is attractive to the university, even though it would be off campus, because of the experience the entire entertainment district — which would include restaurants, bars and other entertainment options — could provide for fans. Accessibility from I-35 and the advantage of playing in a brand new arena, as opposed to the 44-year-old Lloyd Noble Center, also piqued university interest.
“You know how important state-of-the art-facilities are for the 21 sports we sponsor,” Castiglione said. “For the last few years, we’ve been assessing what we might be able to do to renovate and upgrade Lloyd Noble Center. We’ve done some assessment, had a visioning process that was underway with some of our staff, and we were trying to understand our constituent base. During that time, we had some conversations, and one led to the other, and created an opportunity for us to be approached with this unique and exciting concept.”
The venue would likely be privately owned, with OU serving as the anchor tenant, and is currently estimated to have a seating capacity of 10,000. In addition, the university expects to leave the Lloyd Noble Center open to serve as a home for other sports and events, as well a practice facility.