What the woman behind the big donation to Love’s Field believes makes it special

What the woman behind the big donation to Love’s Field believes makes it special

Jenny Love Meyer believes in empowerment, and the Love’s Travel Stops executive vice president believes OU’s new softball stadium will inspire many.

Jenni Carlson

By Jenni Carlson

| Mar 1, 2024, 10:01am CST

Jenni Carlson

By Jenni Carlson

Mar 1, 2024, 10:01am CST

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NORMAN — Jenny Love Meyer knows most folks will be distracted by the immaculate field and the expansive seating and the gigantic scoreboard (in the shape of the state of Oklahoma!) when the softball stadium bearing her family’s name opens Friday.

She appreciates all those aspects of Love’s Field, too.

But something else stands out when she thinks about what makes the $47.1 million facility special.

A ramp.

Yes, a ramp.

Now, it’s a big ramp, wide enough for a charter bus, long enough to hold a few of said buses parked end to end. But still, you might be wondering why a ramp is so great. 

To Love Meyer, the ramp from the gated parking lot to the entrance to the team facility is evidence that OU’s softball complex was built with one group top of mind: the players.

“When they go to an away game, the bus can go down to where the players go straight from the building onto the bus,” Love Meyer said in an exclusive interview with Sellout Crowd. “You don’t have to expose them.”

Jenny Love Meyer

Jenny Love Meyer

Love Meyer credits Sooner coach Patty Gasso.

“She’s always thinking about her players and how to put them in the best position,” Love Meyer said.

Supporting women is one of the main reasons Love Meyer got behind OU’s efforts to build a new softball stadium three years ago. It started with an inspirational speech to the team and culminated with the Love family agreeing to make a $12 million gift to the project. 

Now as the stadium opens with great expectation and fanfare on Friday, Love Meyer feels even better about the decision.

“To be able to be one of the first of its kind, to have a facility of this stature, to be able to make this a reality and help these female athletes do what they do … is really special,” she said. 

Three years ago, however, she had no inkling of what was to come.

During the 2021 season, Gasso asked Love Meyer to come speak to the team. The Sooner coach regularly brings in people with different areas of expertise to motivate her players. Late in the regular season — a season that would ultimately end in the first of three consecutive national titles — Gasso went looking for a fresh voice who could inspire the Sooners.

She thought a woman who was a leader, perhaps in a male-dominated industry, might be good.

No industry is much more male dominated than the travel-stop business.

Love Meyer is the chief culture officer and executive vice president at Love’s Travel Stops and Country Stores. Few women hold upper-management jobs in her industry. Gasso suspected Love Meyer had experienced trials and overcome tribulations.

The two women had never met, but when Gasso asked, Love Meyer agreed to speak to the Sooners.

She may have been there to inspire them, but she was the one who came away inspired. On the drive home, Love Meyer realized Gasso runs her team the way Love’s runs its business.

Strive to be the best with hard work and high integrity.

“I guess they have Love Family dinners every Sunday where they talk business, and OU softball came up,” Gasso said earlier this week. “And it just started gathering traction.”

Late in the summer of 2021 while Gasso was recruiting on the West Coast, OU athletic director Joe Castiglione called her with news that the Love family was going to make a donation. Gasso knew a gift was in the works and suspected it might be around a million dollars.

It was $12 million.

Gasso, known for rarely showing emotion, broke down when she heard the number, the largest gift ever for women’s sports at OU.

The donation pushed the stadium project to the starting line, and since breaking ground 18 months ago, Gasso has been sending Love Meyer occasional text messages showing the construction and the progress.

It’s been about a year since Love Meyer received a message from Gasso saying that she never expected for her program to be in a facility like Love’s Field, a place fitting for her players.

“That made me smile,” Love Meyer said.

There were more smiles last month when Gasso asked Love Meyer to come tour the stadium. Even though lots of construction remained at that point, Love Meyer was wowed by the Sooners’ locker room. 

It made her think about the last time she was in their locker room at Marita Hynes Field. Someone told her the lockers had been used originally by the football team.

There are no hand-me-downs in the new locker room.

“They’ve got everything,” Love Meyer said. “There’s multimedia screens at every locker. They’ve got a multimedia screen on the ceiling. There’s ample space for them, too, for them to hang out.”

There’s even an area Gasso calls “the living room.”

Love Meyer pictured players in the space, getting comfortable and hanging out.

“Which they deserve,” she said.

Love Meyer hopes Love’s Field provides inspiration. It could be an example of what can and should be done to reward women who work and strive and achieve. 

Not just in college softball either.

“Beyond college softball, there’s college athletics, but I think there’s alignment with corporations,” she said, “and this is little bit out there, but the elevation of women and performance does extend to how companies treat the equity for women within their organizations as well.”

That’s why that ramp is one of her favorite features at Love’s Field.

Yes, the scoreboard is cool;  “I don’t think there’s anything like it in the nation,” Love Meyer said.

Sure, she cannot wait to see 4,200 seats filled; “More than double the current capacity,” she beamed.

But that ramp is a reminder of why she and her family felt connected to the softball program and the stadium project. They try to do right by everyone on their team.

So does Gasso.

“She’s always thinking about her players,” Love Meyer said, “and how to put them in the best position.

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Jenni Carlson is a columnist with the Sellout Crowd network. Follow her on Twitter at @JenniCarlson_OK. Email [email protected].

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