New coliseum would replace The Big House

The Jim Norick Arena at State Fair Park on Aug. 30, 2018. Jim Beckel | The Oklahoman

New coliseum would replace The Big House

It’s long been the dream of small-school basketball players to play in The Big House. If MAPS 4 passes, their dream will have a new destination.

The “Big House” could soon be no more.

The 55-year old Jim Norick Arena has hosted thousands of sporting events, concerts and shows since it opened in 1964. It earned its nickname by becoming the home for hundreds of high school basketball and wrestling championships, in addition to State Fair events, horse shows and more.

The building is outdated, but a MAPS 4 proposal could bring a state-of-the-art coliseum to replace it.

A new fairgrounds coliseum is one of 16 MAPS 4 proposed projects. The estimated cost is $63 million, about 6% of MAPS 4. Voters will decide Dec. 10 whether or not to approve a 1-cent sales tax for the next eight years, beginning April 1, to fund the coliseum and other projects.

“We spent a lot of time, really beginning back in 2010, just looking at where it could possibly go and where it would need to be,” Tim O’Toole, President and CEO of Oklahoma State Fair, Inc., said. “We even spent time trying to study whether we could construct a new arena over the old one.”

State Fair Arena is to the point it can hardly keep up with its usage. The base architecture hasn’t changed much, and most of the amenities, like concessions and restrooms, are outdated and in need of upgrades.

Terry Crow, in back, tosses his rope around the head of the running calf as his partner and heeler, Chad Evans spins his rope above his head before throwing it at the feet of the calf in the team roping competition during the International Finals Rodeo (IFR 46) in the Jim Norick Arena at State Fair Park on Saturday afternoon, Jan. 16, 2016. Crow is from Miami, OK, and Evans is from Fairland, OK. [Photo: Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman] |

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“It’s time to replace it.”

David Glover
Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association associate director in charge of basketball.

That’s where MAPS 4 could play a role.

O’Toole said along with the $63 million the State Fair will receive if MAPS 4 passes, they also plan to get additional funding from outside entities, like the existing hotel-motel tax. The State Fair initially requested $95 million to $120 million for the new coliseum, so the plan is to use MAPS 4 funds as the main source of revenue while other revenue streams fill the overall budget.

“We think it will still be a $95 million project,” O’Toole said. “We’ll just have multiple sources to accomplish that.”

The city decided what projects to include in its MAPS 4 proposal, as well as how much each project would receive. They chose how much money to allocate to each project based off expected revenues through the life of the tax and how much an individual project needed.

The current fairgrounds arena has the largest economic impact of all publicly-owned facilities in OKC, according to a presentation the State Fair made to the city in July.

Outside of hosting horse shows and state wrestling and basketball tournaments, State Fair Arena also holds multiple Oklahoma City Public School graduations, as well as those from other districts. That makes the need for a new arena even more urgent.

Howe celebrates the 2A girls state high school basketball championship over Dale at Jim Norick State Fair Arena, the Big House, at State Fair Park in Oklahoma City, Saturday, March 9, 2019. [Photo by Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] |

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“It’s time to replace it,” said David Glover, an Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association associate director in charge of basketball.

The proposed arena would have 4,720 permanent seats, 2,600 retractable seats, open concourses and first-class amenities. If MAPS 4 is passed, the new coliseum could be completed as soon as 2021.

O’Toole said the State Fair Arena could remain open during construction of the new coliseum, which would be built next to the current location. A warm-up arena would be built in State Fair Arena’s footprint.

Glover hopes voters realize the impact a new arena could have for all Oklahomans.

“I hope the voters do approve it because they need to enhance the site out there,” Glover said. “For the wrestling and basketball state tournaments, it would close the door on anyone saying, ‘Well, it’s time to go somewhere else.’”

What will you pay?

The Oklahoman’s MAPS 4 cost calculator can help you estimate how much of your sales tax would be allocated to MAPS 4 if the project is approved. Enter in an estimated monthly amount spent on items subject to sales tax — things like groceries, clothes, home supplies, decorations or other tangible products — to see how much MAPS 4 could cost you over the next 8 years.

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