Oklahoma women’s basketball coach Jennie Baranczyk seconded men’s basketball coach Porter Moser’s advocating for a new arena on Friday.
OU fans, coaches and players have seemingly desired a new basketball arena for some time now. The Lloyd Noble Center opened in 1975 and few renovations have occurred since. The arena holds 11,562 fans and the Sooners have had trouble filling the seats recently.
In efforts to fill the arena, specifically with students, the men’s and women’s teams have been getting creative. For Baranczyk and the Sooners’ Feb. 16 game vs. Texas Tech, the greek life affiliation with the most students in attendance received a $500 reward.
“It's definitely a priority and it's definitely really essential,” Baranczyk said of building a new stadium. “Especially for where we're going here at Oklahoma. We're entering a new conference at some point. We're recruiting high level athletes. It is an essential piece.”
Like Moser, Baranczyk mentioned athletics director Joe Castiglione has discussed the potential of a new arena.
“Joe will continue to do an incredible job to support us and to provide for things that we don't even need to ask for,” Baranczyk said. “We're really fortunate that we have great leadership that sees those things before we do.”
While a project was created in 2017 to build a new off-campus area, the proposal was never submitted. Because of opposition in the surrounding community and a lawsuit, the plans never came to fruition.
As Oklahoma will transition to the Southeastern Conference by 2025, breaking ground on a new arena seems to be a priority for both head coaches following their first seasons in Norman. The advantages it would bring from a recruiting standpoint are obvious.
“In understanding recruiting, our job is really based on getting 14 to now-23-year-olds to see something special when they walk in,” Baranczyk said.
“They've got to walk in, they've got to feel it and they've got to see it, especially with the way that our world is, but we're starting recruiting at such a young age. And obviously with the transfer portal and things like that, there's a lot of comparison going on.”
While a new stadium agreement remains an indefinite time out, Baranczyk and the Sooners are staying in the present. They take the court at 6 p.m. Saturday against No. 6 Iowa State in a crucial matchup in Ames.
“Obviously, our focus right now is where it needs to be and it's not on a new arena,” Baranczyk said. “But having a new arena is definitely essential for us.”
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