There’s a new kid on the block at the Oklahoma City Fairgrounds: a state-of-the-art event center, the Fairgrounds Coliseum, which broke ground earlier this year. While the 216,164 square-foot coliseum is being built, the Jim Norick Arena will continue to host events; estimated time of coliseum completion is April 2025.
Spearheading the vision for this new coliseum are a variety of experts, including J. Scott Munz, OKC Fairgrounds executive vice president of marketing, and Zac Craig, president of the Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The Coliseum will have first-class patron amenities. Topping that list are the concourse and suites, along with a full-service restaurant and ample seating.
The Coliseum will have an open concourse – a large open area at the front – Munz says, so that when you leave your seat, you will still have a view of the arena floor.
“It will have an open design,” Munz says. “[The building] is a new and modern design.”
There will be seating for more than 7,000 people, which includes arena seating, a lounge and suites along with retractable seating options.
“The Coliseum will seat about 4,700 in its 21-inch padded seats for horse shows,” says Craig.
The retractable seating will allow flexibility for different event configurations – from bull riding to concerts to basketball.
Other amenities include upscale concession areas, an A/V suite and a sophisticated catwalk system.
In 2018, Crossroads Consulting, based in St. Petersburg, Fla., conducted a strategic assessment for a potential new fairgrounds coliseum.
“Among many detailed findings,” says Munz, “they determined that the proposed new Fairgrounds Coliseum is estimated to generate $233.1 million in direct spending – which would produce $408.1 million in total output.”
The findings – which Munz reminds are from five years ago – also showed 3,990 total jobs annually in a stabilized year. And, it was estimated that during the coliseum’s construction period, there would be one-time economic impacts to the local economy with the purchase of materials, supplies, labor and professional fees.
The Fairgrounds Coliseum will be built to the south of the Jim Norick Arena, and Craig says “events will be taking place at Jim Norick until the new coliseum is completed.”
The Jim Norick Arena, constructed in 1965, will maintain its scheduled roster of events, such as the AQHA World Championship Show, the OKC Barrel Futurity, and the Arabian Horse Association Youth Nationals. Other non-equine events include the Shrine Circus, Disney On Ice and numerous graduation ceremonies, as well as youth basketball games and other sporting events.
“The Norick is very busy,” says Munz. “It is critical we keep the building open.”
Over the past 20 years, improvements have been made to upgrade the equine facilities on the property.
The Fairgrounds Coliseum, a $126-million project, is funded through MAPS 3, MAPS 4, hotel tax revenue, along with other funding sources.
“We plan to remain the horse show capital of the world and book national and international equine events,” says Craig. “This new arena will only help.”