Sparks shares tales of two landmarks
Published May 7, 2019
Game Changer hardcover released by Oklahoma Hall of Fame Publishing
TULSA (May 7, 2019) – A new book by Tulsa architect Gary Sparks tells the remarkable stories behind two of Oklahoma’s most beloved athletic facilities.
On April 17, Oklahoma Hall of Fame Publishing released Game Changer: Oklahoma State University’s Gallagher-Iba Arena and Boone Pickens Stadium, a beautiful coffee table hardcover with more than 150 photographs and illustrations decorating its 176 glossy pages. Country music legend (and OSU alumnus) Garth Brooks penned the forward.
Game Changer tells the behind-the-scenes stories of how Oklahoma State revitalized its two largest sporting venues. By the 1990s, these adjacent facilities had fallen on hard times, with aging infrastructure, backlogged maintenance needs, and substandard amenities. Realizing their poor quality limited the success of their teams and fans, OSU officials discussed different replacement options, starting with the arena.
This alarmed OSU supporter Sparks, a 1966 graduate who remembered when the 6,318-seat Gallagher-Iba Arena earned acclaim as "the rowdiest arena in the country" and "the Madison Square Garden of the Plains.” So Sparks, who then operated a small Tulsa architectural firm, proposed the university raise a new shell around the arena, one that would increase its seating capacity to 13,611 and deliver all the state-of-the-art amenities desired, yet retain the historic “snake-pit” attributes fans cherished in the original landmark. To top it off, Sparks believed OSU could achieve this while keeping Gallagher-Iba in operation during construction.
“It was risky,” Sparks admitted. “To my knowledge, nothing like this had been done before. But I believed we could do it.”
Though some regional firms doubted the project’s viability, OSU leaders gave Sparks the contract. General contractor Manhattan Construction Co. completed his vision in 2000, drawing widespread praise for the result. With the new Gallagher-Iba Arena earning the title “best college gymnasium” from CBS Sportsline, OSU soon turned to Sparks to reimagine the neighboring Lewis Field, a football stadium that never drew respect like Gallagher-Iba. Its three-phase renovation and expansion would result in the grand 56,790-seat Boone Pickens Stadium, opened in 2009 to national acclaim.
“These projects were very personal to me,” said Sparks, now a partner emeritus in the Tulsa firm Sparks Reed Architecture and Interiors. “A chance to pay back a debt I owed OSU for taking a chance on me to pursue my dreams of becoming an architect. This was my chance to do something significant for the university I love.”
Writing this book allowed Sparks to honor his university once again. To complete the book, Sparks drew not only from his firsthand experiences in every portion of these and related projects, but from his lifetime collection of books, articles, papers, photographs, and other OSU records.
“It was a huge challenge,” he said. “My editor Gini Moore Campbell did a huge job at guiding me through the process.”
Readers may buy Game Changer at the Gaylord-Pickens Museum Store (web address https://oklahomahof.com/museum-store or phone 888.501.2059), Amazon.com, Hall of Fame Book Trader in Stillwater (www.hofbooktrader.com), and other retailers to come. Sparks also plans to headline several signing and sales events before upcoming OSU games.
“It’s nice to have it completed and finished,” Sparks said. “It’s very rewarding. But what I appreciate more than anything is knowing that story is documented for ever and ever.”