April 08, 2016

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) Oklahoma fans and recruits will get much more than a typical spring game experience Saturday.

The football stadium that opened in 1923 has been turned into a bowl.

The update was provided Friday during the school's ''Topping Out'' ceremony. Athletic director Joe Castiglione and coach Bob Stoops spoke with the newly enclosed south end as the backdrop.

Though there is work to be done, the frame of the bowl is in place. A tree was placed on a beam on top of what will be the scoreboard to symbolize the completion of the frame.

''This is a special afternoon,'' Castiglione said. ''We're here to celebrate one of the key stages of the progression of the first phase of the stadium renovation.''

The school said the part of the project that includes new loge boxes and concession areas will be finished by the start of the 2016-17 season. The capacity of 82,112 won't be affected much, but enclosing the stadium could affect the fan experience.

''I believe it's going to make it louder,'' Stoops said. ''I believe it's going to have a great impact, just looking at visually.''

Other work in the project, including new coaches' offices, a larger strength and conditioning room, new locker rooms, an expanded sports medicine area, a nutrition center and new team meeting rooms are to be completed by the end of February 2017. There has been a great deal of scrambling for players and staff during the process.

''Being displaced - makeshift meeting rooms, walking across the street back and forth to games, makeshift locker rooms - not one guy has grumbled,'' Stoops said. ''I've never heard it. There's not been one down word about it from the coaching staff to players to anyone. Everybody's all in, and they realize you have to have some sacrifices here and there to move forward, and these guys have been willing to do that.''

Stoops said the project already has made a difference in recruiting.

''The working space we will have will be second to none in the country,'' Stoops said. ''We'll have everything you need to compete at the very highest level.''

Castiglione wanted to make sure that calling the celebration ''Topping Out,'' wasn't misinterpreted.

''The dreams and the aspirations of the people that will use it will always eclipse whatever it is that we have in place, and that's good,'' he said.

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Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP

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