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OSU's construction plans shelved by huge economic loss

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder hoped to see heavy construction this summer on the school's planned athletic village and new baseball stadium.

Instead, he now sees about 100 acres of emptiness north of T. Boone Pickens Stadium where he had hoped the $50 million indoor practice facility and $30 million stadium would be being built.

The Tulsa World reports that how OSU's plans have been shelved after a facility fund managed by Pickens' BP Capital Investment took a huge hit.

Eleven months ago, OSU had $407 million in a facilities fund.

A few weeks later, because of the stock market crisis, a lot of that money was gone.

"Things were great from Jan. 1, 2006, until July of 2008, and then we hit a slight bump in the road," Holder told the World. "We lost ($282 million) in three months.

OSU was left with enough money to complete the Boone Pickens Stadium renovation project ($125 million salvaged from the facilities fund, along with $63 million donated by Pickens in October, $35 million borrowed from the OSU Foundation, and $10 million in funds raised by Holder last fall). That will be finished for the start of the season.

But the plans for the indoor practice facility, along with others have been pushed aside. Among the projects that have been put off include new outdoor football practice fields, a tennis complex, a soccer-track complex and an equestrian center.

Holder was asked by the World if the athletic village would ever become a reality.

"I'm personally committed to getting it done, but I'm not personally able to do it right now," Holder said. "It will take a lot of people making a lot of money to get it done. It's a pretty expensive endeavor.

"A year ago, it wasn't a matter of if we were going to build, but when. It's just a bigger mountain to climb because you don't have the money. We're a lot further along than we were five years ago. How can anyone be discouraged about that? It would be nice to look over there and see that Sherman Smith Athletic Training Facility about halfway finished. I'd like that a lot better."

Tulsa oilman Sherman Smith started funding for the facility with a $20 million gift to the school. And Holder remains committed to building a 151,000-square-foot facility that would serve several sports. It would be the largest in the conference.

When Baylor finishes its new facility in August, the Cowboys will be the only program without an indoor facility.

OSU coach Mike Gundy told the World that the Cowboys are at a competitive disadvantage because they don't have an indoor facility.

"Coach Holder is aware that we need it. That's no secret," Gundy told the World. "And it's not just for football. Other sports would use it more than we would. But we do need it for bowl practice. When you practice 10 or 12 days in December, getting ready for a bowl game, it can be bitter cold. In the spring time, you have lightning.

"Coach Holder and I are on the same page. As soon as we can build an indoor facility, we need to get to it. There's an obligation to Sherman Smith's family. The goal is to do things in a reasonable amount of time, but with a reasonable amount of debt."

The Cowboys are on the verge of a monumental breakthrough in college football, and there's more national excitement about the program than ever before. It's not out of the realm of possibility that they could contend for their first Big 12 South title this season.

But it will be difficult to maintain that momentum if they don't have the facilities to match their rivals.

And Gundy knows that better than anybody else.