OklahomaHorses Magazine May 2023

12 OklahomaHorses • May / June 2023 World-Class COLISEUM Construction Is Under Way at the OKC Fairgrounds by Lindsay Humphrey | Photo and artist’s renderings courtesy of the OKC Fairgrounds H orse shows and Oklahoma City — one simply doesn’t exist without the other. They go together better than baseball and apple pie because they have watched horse and human strive in unison to create a performance industry. For more than 50 years now, equine competitors of all ages and backgrounds have dreamed about seeing their name in lights in one place — the Jim Norick Arena in Oklahoma City. This is the end of an era for the iconic landmark, but only because of the unforgiving toll of time. Building a coliseum to replace the Norick Arena is the last step in creating an equine complex where organizations and exhibitors from across the globe can dream of showing in one day. In the last 20 years, more than $120 million has revitalized the buildings surrounding the arena. “A lot of money has been invested in recent years to upgrade everything, but then when someone takes an animal through the Gateway of Champions, the last image of the OKC Fairgrounds is of an old, tired building,” said J. Scott Munz, executive vice president of marketing for the OKC Fairgrounds. Comparable venues typically last 30 or 40 years, but the Norick, completed in 1965, is well past that age. That is visible in the building design and layout and the dilapidated amenities. “Your last image of the OKC Fairgrounds is in that arena, and we want it to be a good one, which is why it’s time to say a fond farewell to the Norick,” Munz said. “It’s had a storied history; a lot of good things have taken place there. Freckles Brown rode Tornado for the first time in that arena back when the NFR was here. Reba McEntire kicked off her career singing the national anthem in that arena, Elvis played there, and so did Led Zeppelin.” A Focus on Horse Shows There’s no question that the domed arena is a landmark for the city itself, but it used to be one for the world as well. In its infancy, the 10,944-capacity building had the largest roof of its kind anywhere on the globe. That has since changed, but what hasn’t changed is the self-proclamation that Oklahoma City is the Horse Show Capital of the World. “It’s an arbitrary title, and nothing qualifies us for it,” Munz explained. “It’s not official, but I do think it’s an appropriate title that is defendable and justified.” Naming rights are still up in the air for the new coliseum. For now, the working title is the OKC Fairgrounds Coliseum.