Central Oklahoma Finalizing $50M Renovation Plans

11 November 2016

 The University of Central Oklahoma is finalizing plans for about $50 million in campus improvements, pending the approval of the education lease program.A $14 million sports performance facility will break ground this spring.

The university will build a new dining center, upgrade its liberal arts building, and complete the second phase of the sports facility.

Vice President of Operations Kevin Freeman said these updates have been in the works for the last 10 years. They are all expected to finish in 2019.

The existing dining center and the liberal arts building were constructed in the 1960s, so student needs have changed since then. The university has to keep up with education trends to help with recruitment, he said.

"It's imperative to upgrade these facilities as needed," Freeman said.

The dining center will be about the same size as the existing dining area, but the kitchen will be built differently, allowing more space for eating. The center will be the first floor of a multi-story building. Freeman said the building will have either one or two more stories, with office, meeting, and event spaces.

The Liberal Arts building is frequently used by students because it's where many general education classes are held. The update will include new classroom spaces configured to modern education needs and a renovation to the existing Pegasus Theater.

Some money for the three projects is coming from the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education Master Real Property Lease Program. UCO's loan requests will be reviewed with other universities' loan requests before the money is allotted. That process includes approval needed by the state Legislature and the state's council of bond oversight. If approval is given, it will not be done until summer 2017.

UCO Athletic Director Joe Muller said the athletic program has needed its new facilities for several years. When he arrived in 2008, the newest renovation was the football stadium and the soccer field. Otherwise, the school hadn't updated its facilities in at least 30 years.

Muller said recruitment can be challenging since coaches do not have the newest spaces to show potential student-athletes.

"We have some exceptional coaches that are good at selling the other virtues of UCO," he said. "We have a lot to sell other than facilities. "

Now, a new softball complex is under construction and more work will start soon. The 45,000-square-foot sports performance facility that will break ground in April will have a weight room, study space, theater room, coaches' offices, and a training facility. The phase two will have an indoor track, wrestling room, locker rooms, and auxiliary gymnasium.

These new areas will not only help with recruitment but could help move the university into a higher playing field. Muller said people outside the school have bandied about the idea of moving into a different conference or Division I.

"We are one of the largest DII schools in the country," he said. "Until we engage or construct these facilities, we need to be good where we are. We need to win some championships at the Division II level. "