NORMAN — The OU Armory will undergo extensive renovations starting this summer after the Board of Regents for the University of Oklahoma approved construction plans and costs.
Regents voted unanimously to go ahead with the $8.5 million project, which is financed by a private gift to the university. It also includes remodeling the Cate 4 building to fully house the Air Force ROTC program. The renovation will also make the Armory ADA compliant.
The board held its meeting inside the Armory on Wednesday. Capt. Lyle Hall, commanding officer for the OU Naval ROTC, said the renovation will bring the building up to speed with current needs and resources.
“It’s going to bring the building into the 21st century,” Hall said. “There’s a lot of history based in this building, and a lot of people have come through it. But we don’t have central heat and air. Electrical upgrades are critical in today’s environment, where everything’s a cell phone or a laptop. And it’s going to bring our classrooms into the 21st century, as well as bring the building up to ADA compliance, which is huge.”
Before the agenda item was introduced to the board, Chair Leslie Rainbolt-Forbes said regents wanted to use this time to recognize late regent Bill Burgess, who passed away in February. Burgess, a Lawton native, was brought up in a military family — his father was a sergeant in the U.S. Army — and became a civilian aide to the secretary of the Army in 2010.
His company, Techrizon, developed software for the Department of Defense. Former Gov. Mary Fallin appointed Burgess to the board in 2014.
“There is a very close friend of ours who is not here with us today,” Rainbolt-Forbes said. “His absence has been pervasive for all of us in the last month.”
Rainbolt-Forbes said in approving the Armory renovation, she’d like for it “to be in homage to Bill.”
President James Gallogly, who presented the item to the regents, also acknowledged how important this would have been to Burgess.
He said the words written in bold letters on one of the Armory’s walls were appropriate in the circumstances.
“‘You can accept things how they are, or you can choose to make a difference.’ That’s exactly what regent Burgess did for so many years, as a state regent and here on behalf of the University of Oklahoma,” Gallogly said.
The project includes a new HVAC system, expanded classrooms and a new gym for drill exercises.
Hall also said it will expand the locker room for female cadets, as well.
“Right now, we have locker rooms for male and female, but our female facilities are very limited,” Hall said. “We’re going to bring it back up to where it is more equal.”
The project is scheduled to be complete by summer 2020.
Hall said the OU ROTC program operations will be relocated across campus starting in May and for the next academic year.
“OU is providing us temporary facilities to move into and we’ll be using classrooms around the campus,” Hall said. “We have plans to support all of that.”
The renovation project was made possible through a $20 million gift to OU by Jim and Miriam Mulva.
Jim Mulva is a former president and CEO of ConocoPhillips, the same company in which Gallogly held executive positions.
That gift will also establishes a scholarship fund for OU students who join ROTC.
Gallogly: OU has ‘turned corner’ financially
OU President James Gallogly told the Board of Regents Wednesday that the university has “turned the corner” in efforts to improve its financial situation.
The Norman campus is now seeing positive cash flow, with a $25 million improvement. Gallogly said the university has identified $33 million in savings since the effort to improve the financial situation began.
“Negative numbers on the Norman campus are now positive,” Gallogly said. “Our cash position has finally shown an improvement from $152 million to $177 million, an increase of $25 million.”
The Health Sciences Center has also seen a month-to-month cash improvement by $36 million.
Donations to the university reached $55.6 million in new and conditional pledges. With the addition of cash gifts of $68.5 million, OU is on track “hopefully” to match giving in the previous year, Gallogly said.