Why OU is investing $50M in renovating National Weather Center and building radar facility

Article by Murray Evans by The Oklahoman

A $50 million plan to boost the University of Oklahoma’s top-ranked meteorology program has moved another step toward becoming reality.

OU regents met Tuesday and ranked a list of architects for a $10 million renovation of the National Weather Center, which opened in 2006, and also for a $40 million new weather research and radar advanced manufacturing facility.

Design of Oklahoma City was the highest-ranked of four architectural firms that bid on the National Weather Center project, while Miles Architecture of Oklahoma City was the highest-ranked among three firms bidding to serve as the architect on the radar facility.

Regents authorized the university administration to begin negotiating the terms of agreements and fees with the top-ranked firms.

The National Weather Center, located on a 22-acre site just south and east of Lloyd Noble Center on the OU campus, cost $69 million to build and opened to much fanfare in 2006. With 244,000 square feet spread over five floors, the facility — located in the heart of the traditional Tornado Alley — is home not only to OU’s meteorology program and its Oklahoma Weather Lab, but also to a National Weather Service forecast office, the federal Storm Prediction Center, the National Severe Storms Laboratory, the Oklahoma Mesonet and other agencies.

Plans call for an interior renovation and modification of multiple departments, programs and divisions to better allow for growth. Both OU and government programs will be redistributed throughout the building. OU officials say the project will be paid for from university funds, National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) funds and lease agreements.

OU’s meteorology program is ranked No. 1 nationally by CollegeRaptor.com and collegefactual.com, among others.

New radar manufacturing facility to go up next to the National Weather Center

Harroz said the weather research and radar advanced manufacturing facility will be built next to the National Weather Center and will house the university’s growing portfolio of defense-related sponsored research projects. It also will contain updated space for weather offices and radar research, as well as space for the advanced manufacturing of radar. The building will include a secure area to support projects governed by ITAR/EAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations/Export Administration Regulations).

Some departments now located in the National Weather Center will move into the new building, although Harroz said which ones remains uncertain. The goal is to facilitate collaboration between university, government and industry personnel involved in weather and radar research.

It will be between 18 months and two years, at least, before the projects are finished, Harroz said.

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