Award Winner - July/August 2003
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Room for the Cowboys to Roam

Oklahoma State University Athletic Center
Stillwater, Okla.


Like many college campuses, Oklahoma State University wanted to expand its sports facilities, but space was at premium. While the school considered building off-campus (which would be less convenient as well as break with tradition), instead it set its sights on massively overhauling its aging basketball arena.

"It was a great location," says Gary Sparks, principal in charge with SPARKS Sports. "It was my idea that we should expand and modernize the facility that we had and make it a first-class facility without going offsite. Also at the same time, we really needed to update the football stadium."

What was once the basketball arena now has been expanded to serve other athletics as well as linked to the adjacent football field, creating one huge sports complex.

"We kept all the history and tradition on campus, but modernized and doubled it in size," Sparks says.

The arena grew from 60 feet high to 120 feet high and 6,318 seats to 13,600, making it the largest sports arena in the state of Oklahoma.

Supporting the entire roof structure are two massive box trusses, nearly a football field long, 40 feet tall and weighing one million pounds each.

Interestingly, the new Athletic Center sports the only skybox suites in the United States that allow fans to watch both basketball in the arena from the east side and football games from the west side.

Because the old arena had to be kept open for ongoing games and events during construction, planners came up with an interesting twist.

"I think it's the first time anybody has done what we did by building up and around the existing arena," Sparks says. "We didn't miss any ball games. All the time this was going on, we were playing games inside the arena."

Designers were able to save the original white maple wood court, which was installed in 1938. While preserving the history of the old arena was key, the new Athletic Center starts a new chapter for the university.

"It's been a big hit," Sparks says. "It's a great place to watch basketball. It's very intimidating for the other team, but that's what it's all about."

"Strong impact and great use. Very innovative approach to maintain older building but provide new image."

—Philip Neeley

"A Georgian arena at this scale is not easy to pull off."

—Paul Brailsford

"Nice use of classical elements in a contemporary building. Credit given for keeping the existing structure."

—Reed I. Voorhees

Submitted by: SPARKS Sports in a joint venture with Rosser International

Size: 460,000 square feet

Project cost: $56 million

Quick tour:

  • Comprehensive sports complex with training facilities for all men's and women's sports
  • Gallagher-Iba Arena expanded to 13,000 seats from the current 6,318
  • Academic counseling center
  • 30,000-square-foot strength and conditioning center including weight room and track
  • Auxiliary gym
  • Wrestling facilities
  • Expanded offices and locker rooms
  • Recruiting lounge
  • Improvement to football facilities
  • Elevators and escalators added at new entrances to help improve circulation at ground level
  • New concourse level provides new concession areas and restrooms
  • Existing walkway between arena and football coaches' offices were enclosed to become Heritage Hall with more than 5,000 square feet of displays highlighting OSU's traditions and athletic and scholastic achievements.
  • Kitchen and laundry facilities

Associated Firms

General contractor: Manhattan Construction

Flooring: Altro, Armstrong, Forbo

Physical-education flooring: Action Flooring Systems

Ceramic tile: Dal Tile

Movable partitions/walls: Hufcor

Indoor lighting: Sterner, Sportlite Inc.

Fire/life-safety systems: Simplex

Auditorium/assembly: Hussey Seating Co.

Drinking fountains: Haws Corporation

Washroom fixtures and accessories: Bradley Fixture Corporation

Scoreboards/clocks: Whiteway Sign Co.

HVAC units: Temptrol

HVAC control devices: Siebe Environmental

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