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May 29, 2014

Tim Brassfield

Mick Cornett

Craig Cress

Mark Lewis


THE MODERATOR:  Without further ado, I would like to welcome everyone to this morning's press conference.  My name is Julie Bartel, and I serve as the director of marketing and communications here at ASA and USA Softball.  I'm going to introduce our head table and we'll get started.  To my immediate left is Mark Lewis, who's the executive vice president for championships and alliances at the NCAA; to his left is the mayor of Oklahoma City, Mick Cornett; and to his left is Tim Brassfield, the executive director of the Oklahoma City All Sports Association; and on my far left is Craig Cress, who is the executive director at ASA and USA Softball.
It's a very exciting day as the NCAA is releasing that the NCAA Women's College World Series will continue to take place in Oklahoma City through 2020, and significant improvements to the Amateur Softball Association Hall of Fame Stadium will be made during that time that can enable the championship to extend its stay through 2035.
On this historic day I'm going to turn it over to Mark Lewis from the NCAA to make some opening comments as well as we'll have all of our guests here make some opening comments and then we'll open it up for a question‑and‑answer session.  Mark?
MARK LEWIS:  I want to start today by just saying simply thank you.  Thank you to the mayor and to the City Council and really to the entire people in Oklahoma City.  This event has been here for a long time, obviously, and we're extending this deal not because of improvements to the stadium.  That's important, but this event has been a success here for a long time, and that's why we're making a long‑term commitment to Oklahoma City.  The way the people have come out to support this championship year after year, whether it's volunteers, whether it's fans or just people in the community who get excited when these eight teams come here every year.
The facility improvements are incredible, as well, and it just shows further commitment to this championship, and we're very grateful that this city values the championship and displays that value.  So for us to make a long‑term commitment is a true partnership, and we are very thankful for everything that's been done.  These kids will have a chance to play in front of the largest crowds they'll ever play in front of in their entire career, and when you think about what a National Championship should be, creating those memories of playing in front of big crowds and in great facilities is what we at the NCAA always want to put as a National Championship experience.  Oklahoma City truly delivers a National Championship experience.
I want to say thank you, and I'll turn it over now to the mayor to talk about the facility itself and be happy to answer questions at the end.
MICK CORNETT:  Well, I want to say how grateful we are to the NCAA throughout this process.  This event has grown through the years, and I think you first look at a three‑way partnership between the NCAA, ESPN and the citizens of Oklahoma City and you can divide the citizens of Oklahoma City into those that vote, those that volunteer through the All Sports Association and those that work out of the Amateur Softball Association, but we have, I think, cradled this event and helped it grow through the years, and you see it in a very enthusiastic fan base.
I personally enjoy the fact that these young women are incredible role models that girls growing up in Oklahoma City get to witness once a year at the height of their athletic experience.
We want this to be the pinnacle for the sport, and I think with the improvements that we're making, we're ensuring that in years to come.  It's a two‑tiered funding solution that gets us to 2020 and into 2035, but in a certain respect, it's remindful that there are young girls, young women who are not even born yet who will be a part of this agreement, so we feel like this really solidifies Oklahoma City's appreciation to the NCAA and also shows that we care deeply about this event and feel like it's ours, and now we're stepping up to the plate and proving it.  Mark, thank you very much.  We really appreciate it.
TIM BRASSFIELD:  For me it's somewhat emotional when I look back at when this first began.  I began here at the All Sports in 1999.  I followed a legend in Stanley Draper, Jr., and when he first bid for this to bring it here in 1990, I don't think even he could have imagined what has happened today.  We're so grateful on so many parts.  We have a partnership with the University of Oklahoma, and Joe Castiglione and his staff do a wonderful job working with us and of course with the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium folks.
It's just amazing how it all works, and that's, I think, what our city says to most folks is just how we work together, and it happens over and over again, and I hear it over and over again.  There's so many folks to thank to get to this spot when I think back at just the meetings we've had with the city of Oklahoma City, the mayor and Mr.Couch and his staff and all the time that Tom Anderson has given us and Wiley Williams and of course our CVB being involved, and then I need to thank Lee Allan Smith because on the private said he's done a yeoman's work in helping us raise funds there.  There's many folks involved in helping us get to this point.  But we are so grateful just to be moving forward.
It's exciting to think, as Mark and the mayor both said, that in just 20 years there will be players here that never knew what happened.  They never knew this was going to take place or taking place at this point, and they'll be playing in the best facility really in the world, the best softball facility.  We're grateful to everyone and grateful for the city support as well as the support of ASA and the University of Oklahoma in getting to this position.  Thank you.
CRAIG CRESS:  ASA/USA Softball, we're extremely proud and privileged and fortunate to be where we're at in Oklahoma City.  We've been here to many years.  This event has grown for many years and the entire city itself has grown.  The sport of softball, as we know it's a team sport, and the efforts that were put into this event for many, many years and the improvements that have happened in the last few months are truly a team effort, and each and every person and team that has something to do with that should be congratulated.  This is for the city of Oklahoma City.  We are very fortunate and grateful for our partnership with them and Oklahoma City All Sports and obviously the NCAA and Mark Lewis.  This has been a great venture for us.  We're excited.  The student athletes themselves are excited to be here, and you know, this part of town and being a part of the Oklahoma City Adventure District with the zoo and Remington Park and the National Science Industry Museum, it's a great place to be, and we're excited to be here every May and also continue to host our events, 31 other events that we have throughout the year.  Thank you very much, Mayor, and thank you very much, Mark, for allowing us to be the host of this great event.

Q.  Mayor, specifically to you, what has this event meant economically to the city of Oklahoma City?
MICK CORNETT:  Well, the direct impact you would measure through typical tourism standards, how many people come in, how many days do they stay, how much are they expected to spend while they're here, but I think the indirect aspects of it are probably what excite me the most.  Every year during the College World Series I hear from people that I might have met in previous aspects of my life who are sitting somewhere in some far‑off corner of the world watching television and they see Oklahoma City on the screen and the idea that we have obviously the best facility in this sport and it attracts the highest events.  So I think the worldwide attention that this event brings to Oklahoma City probably has benefits that are difficult to measure but I think are very, very real.
There's also a certain amount of pride that I think our citizens take in the fact that the NCAA can take this event literally anywhere in the United States they would like to and they have chosen Oklahoma City again and again and again, and the citizens of Oklahoma City should be very proud of that.

Q.  I have a question for Craig and one for the mayor.  Can you go into some specifics about the improvements that you have made in the last year and what you're planning?  And Mayor, how much is all this costing the taxpayers?
CRAIG CRESS:  As far as the improvements being made, the team, all the citizens and everybody of Oklahoma City, what we've done is we've been able to enlarge the locker rooms.  We've been able to put some more friendly camera wells in places for ESPN as well as places to run their cables, and probably the biggest benefit of this whole improvement on this is for the student athletes.  The student athletes now have a room behind the dugout where they can go for quiet time if they need it.  The coaches can have them back there prior to the game.  It's not complete, but as I've heard, we're 100 percent where we said we would be at this time, which is important, but the student athletes are the ones that benefit from this phase, and they're the stars of this show, and that's who should benefit.
MICK CORNETT:  We put money in the 2007 bond issue that was passed to improve the facility, and some of that money is already extended to help ESPN with their landing area and the improvements that you've seen for this year and again next year.  We have additional dollars that we foresee in the next bond issue that extends the agreement from 2020 to 2035.  Also don't underestimate the philanthropic contribution here.  It has been very generous and a very substantial part of this funding mechanism.
But I think when it's all said and done, and of course exact costs aren't going to know until you bid out the project several years in advance, but the large stadium expansion, you're going to be looking at $20 million or so, and I'm looking for heads to nod.  Heads are nodding; $20 million is a good round number for right now.  Not all of that, though, will be taxpayer dollars.  As I mentioned, there's some philanthropy and some naming right opportunities that will help us continue to fund it.

Q.  Mark, really the only similar situation I can think of is Omaha with the College World Series.  Is that kind of how you guys see Oklahoma City is kind of the Omaha of softball?
MARK LEWIS:  Well, I think Oklahoma City is the mecca of softball.  It stands certainly on its own two feet.  We have a long‑term deal now for two championships, and you're right, what we do in Omaha for the College World Series of Division I and what we do here for the Division I Women's College World Series, they're our longest standing agreements.  When you look at the nature of the event, baseball and softball lend itself to this kind of environment where you've got eight teams coming in instead of four like we do with the Final Four.  We're here for more than a week with the double elimination, and so having some permanency to the site makes it that much better because this is quite a production.  We could go‑‑ we didn't know who was here, and now we have eight teams from all over the country, and that's quite a logistical challenge to pull off, so knowing that we have a trusted partner in the city and in our host at the University of Oklahoma just gives us the confidence to know we can pull this thing off.
I would add that in addition we're going to have the Division II and Division III championships come here at different times over the course of this agreement, so in 2015 we'll have the Division II and in 2017 and '18 we'll have the Division III championships come here.  So again, it really is becoming the mecca of softball because of the quality of the facility and the quality of the community that hosts it.

Q.  Will there be a chance for a long‑term agreement for Division II and Division III?
MARK LEWIS:  That's really premature to discuss.  We have 89 championships in the NCAA.  We have three that really don't move around right now.  We also have done in the last year an agreement with track and field to be in Eugene, Oregon.  But when you sit and you look at our championships moving around, we came here for wrestling this past year, and I think it's important that most of our championships do move around because our campuses and our schools host them, and so having a chance to move them out west and to the east and to the south and to the north, that's part of the fabric that makes college sports special.
Whether this facility can host other events multiple times, it's certainly something that I would expect a discussion for.  But the ink is not even dry on this one and you're asking me about two others (laughter), so it's definitely something we'll consider.
THE MODERATOR:  I'd like to thank everyone for today's attendance, and let's play ball.  Thank you.

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