Why Love’s Field, OU softball’s new home, is ‘something to brag about’

Why Love’s Field, OU softball’s new home, is ‘something to brag about’

Oklahoma’s reign over college softball will enter a new era when the Sooners open the $47.9 million facility on March 1.

Eli Lederman

By Eli Lederman

| Feb 2, 2024, 7:00am CST

Eli Lederman

By Eli Lederman

Feb 2, 2024, 7:00am CST

(Eli Lederman’s ‘OU Week in Review’ newsletter hits inboxes every Saturday morning. Subscribe here for all the latest.)

NORMAN — Patty Gasso had spent the previous 40 minutes talking; painting the picture of a childhood in California, framing the foundation of her dynasty at Oklahoma and describing the unique pressure of leading college softball’s three-time defending national champions. 

Then, as Gasso wrapped her appearance in front of the Rotary Club of Oklahoma City in January, she gave a nod to the future and the soon-to-be new home of the Sooners.

“We’ll be on the field at the new (stadium) March 1st,” Gasso said. “We’re in it. Thank you so much for your support. It’s going to be the biggest stadium in the country.

“So we have something to brag about as we go into the SEC.” 

In one month’s time, Gasso’s program will officially call Love’s Field home. March 1 is the “functional occupancy deadline” construction crews are operating under for the $47.9 million ballpark on South Jenkins Avenue. It’s also the start date for the Sooner-hosted OU Tournament, kicking off 11 consecutive home games to open the program’s 23-game home slate in 2024.

Nearly 2,100 days after the Oklahoma Board of Regents approved the project, OU will have a new stadium and another thing to brag about. For Gasso and Co., it’s been a long time coming.

Plans for an upgraded softball facility began as the Sooners rattled off three national titles in five seasons from 2013-17.

Initial concepts centered on planned renovations to the existing Marita Hynes Field. Eventually, the university settled on constructing a new stadium just up the road. In June 2018, the Board of Regents approved a proposal for a 3,000-seat, $22 million build that would serve as the stage for the future of OU’s burgeoning softball program. 

Three years later, however, the site of the proposed stadium remained untouched.

Early fundraising efforts were slowed by COVID-19. Post-pandemic fundraising eventually picked up after the 2021 Sooners claimed the first of their three straight national titles and a $12 million donation from Love’s Travel Stops later that year was enough to supercharge the project. 

OU broke ground on the site the next fall with a $42 million operating budget. 

Expected to close just shy of $48 million, the cost of the new facility will dwarf Oregon’s Jane Sanders Stadium ($17.2 million in 2016) and Texas A&M’s Davis Diamond Stadium ($28.6 million in 2018). By next month, Norman will be home to the most expensive college softball stadium in the country. 

As Gasso alluded, Love’s Field will also open as the nation’s largest college softball stadium. Initially projected to hold 3,000, the 44,000-square-foot ballpark’s seating capacity was updated to 4,200 in September, placing the Sooners’ new home ahead of Alabama’s Rhoads Stadium (3,940). 

With a capacity north of 4,000, a 10,669-square-foot indoor training center and team spaces that include training and locker rooms, OU is about to set a new standard for college softball.

“It is plush — it is going to be plush,” Gasso said in October. “I can’t wait for all of you to see it.”

Gasso’s players got their first look at the new facility in October.

The visit pulled veteran catcher Kinzie Hansen back to her first trip to Marita Hynes Field and memories of youth camps long before she landed behind the plate at OU. Others simply stood in awe of the softball complex rising in front of them.

“There were times when I was speechless,” said infielder Tiare Jennings.

The project remains unfinished and the Sooners will still utilize parts of the Marita Hynes Field complex in 2024. Yet as OU prepares for a move, Gasso knows just how far her program has come. She tells the tale often and for good reason.

OU’s home sat across the street from Marita Hynes Field at Reaves Park when Gasso took over the program in 1995. She remembers picking up trash on the field before practice. The Sooners would get booted regularly to make way for a local slowpitch softball league.

The move to Marita Hynes Field in 1998 bumped OU up a peg and gave the Sooners a fortress. 

“Going from Reaves Park to (this) was like the Taj Mahal,” Gasso said last spring.

Gasso coached ​​all 610 games inside the ballpark, winning 548 of them (89.9 winning percentage). OU’s last loss on its home field came in April 2017. Over 25 seasons, the venue became the platform for each of the Sooners’ seven national titles and, in turn, a juggernaut; the defining program in a defining era of college softball. 

Next month, OU’s reign over college softball will enter a new era inside Love’s Field, a stadium befitting the sport’s preeminent program. 

“I don’t think softball will have seen anything like this,” Gasso said this fall.

Share with your crowd
Eli Lederman reports on the University of Oklahoma for Sellout Crowd. He began his professional career covering the University of Missouri with the Columbia Missourian and later worked at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette before two years writing on the Sooners and Cowboys at the Tulsa World. Born and raised in Mamaroneck, New York, Lederman grew up a rabid consumer of the New York sports pages and an avid fan of the New York Mets. He entered sportswriting at 14 years old and later graduated from the University of Missouri. Away from the keyboard, he can usually be found exploring the Oklahoma City food scene or watching/playing fútbol (read: soccer). He can be reached at [email protected].

The latest from Sellout Crowd

  • May 9, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; The Oklahoma City Thunder bench watch the final minute of their game against the Dallas Mavericks during the second half of game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Paycom Center. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

    Does OKC need more Aaron Wiggins?

  • May 9, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder fans cheer as their team scores against the Dallas Mavericks during the second quarter of game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Paycom Center. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

    Thunder-Mavericks: Why these playoffs might spawn a new OKC rival

  • May 9, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) drives to the basket beside Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) during the second half of game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Paycom Center. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

    OKC fans chanted ‘Luka sucks,’ but Doncic’s play said otherwise

  • Tailgating on The Grove on the Ole Miss campus in Oxford, Ms., on Saturday September 15, 2018.

Pre309

    OU’s move to the SEC: Listing the things to look foward to

  • Ireland travelblog: Farewell to the Emerald Isle, which keep Americans coming

The latest from Sellout Crowd

  • May 9, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; The Oklahoma City Thunder bench watch the final minute of their game against the Dallas Mavericks during the second half of game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Paycom Center. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

    Does OKC need more Aaron Wiggins?

  • May 9, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder fans cheer as their team scores against the Dallas Mavericks during the second quarter of game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Paycom Center. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

    Thunder-Mavericks: Why these playoffs might spawn a new OKC rival

  • May 9, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) drives to the basket beside Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) during the second half of game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Paycom Center. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

    OKC fans chanted ‘Luka sucks,’ but Doncic’s play said otherwise

  • Tailgating on The Grove on the Ole Miss campus in Oxford, Ms., on Saturday September 15, 2018.

Pre309

    OU’s move to the SEC: Listing the things to look foward to

  • Ireland travelblog: Farewell to the Emerald Isle, which keep Americans coming