My first encounter with Oklahoma football was in 1987 during their glory days under legendary Coach Barry Switzer. I felt the fans were expectant then of a dominant performance each time their beloved Sooners took the field. That was pretty much the case then and has been for a long time. Although Sooner football is still relevant and they are consistently ranked in the top 25, they are no longer the dominating force they once were. Nonetheless, the one thing that has been a constant since the days of Bud Wilkinson through the Switzer era and on to the Stoops era is the venerable Owen Field at Gaylord Family Memorial Stadium.
Gaylord Memorial sits on the northeast corner of the beautiful Oklahoma campus in Norman, Oklahoma. It was originally built in 1925 on the same spot they had played for years prior. Capacity, when constructed, was a mere 16,000. Current capacity is roughly 84,000; however, with standing room tickets more fans will be squeezed in for big games.
Oklahoma is an anchor member of the Big 12 conference along with arch rival Texas. They are considered by most to be one of the five true “blue bloods” of college football along with Alabama, Notre Dame, USC and Ohio State. Oklahoma has had seven National Championships, 45 Big 8/Big 12 conference titles and 5 Heisman trophy winners. The pageantry around Norman and the campus may arguably be unrivaled in college football. The entire town rolls out the crimson carpet for their beloved Sooners. Tailgating takes place mainly up and down Jenkins Avenue on the east side of campus in parking lots and fields on game day. However, there are many nooks and crannies on and around campus where you will find crimson and cream tailgating tents. Periodically you will hear a crowd of revelers shout “Boomer!” and a response will come from another group “Sooner!” On the east side of the stadium is a patch of grass next to Jenkins road with the statues of the five Heisman trophy winners. As cars drive over the cobble stone road, audio is activated to imitate a roaring crowd.
The Switzer Center/Museum on game day is a good use of an hour to take in all the Sooner history. It is closed this season (2016) due to construction but will be open next year (2017). About an hour before kickoff, the Pride of Oklahoma Marching Band will come marching down Jenkins to the stadium playing the very recognizable Boomer Sooner fight song. You can also catch festive pre-game atmosphere in the area known as Campus Corner which is an assortment of bars and restaurants just off the north end of campus.
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The stadium has two concourses side by side indicating the original stadium and the more recent exterior facade. Each concourse is lined with a vast assortment of food vendors of all stripes. There are possibly 50 + food vendors throughout the stadium.
The food choices range from typical stadium fare, to competing Oklahoma BBQ, Chick-fil-A, Pizza Hut, Mexican and more. One can pretty much satisfy almost any type of game day foodie craving. Depending on which vendor you select lines will vary from the impossible to non-existent.
There is no alcohol served in the stadium. Gaylord is a Coca-Cola stadium, so all vendors will offer Coke products. Fountain drinks in cups and water bottles with no caps are served throughout all vendor stations.
Prices for standard fare are $5 for a hot dog, $5 for fries and $4.25 for a soda. I am a Chick-fil-A fanatic so you can't go wrong with that, but I would recommend Billy Sims BBQ for some local flavor. Billy Sims was a former OU Heisman trophy winner from the 1970s who has turned into a successful entrepreneur.
At 84,000 seats, Gaylord is one of the 15 largest college football stadiums in the country. The Sooners play on natural grass which is immaculately manicured.
Prior to kickoff, the fans work themselves into a frenzy until the players take the field. The student section is loud and raucous and they have chants and songs they repeat the whole game. The undergraduate enrollment is only about 20,000 but you would think it larger based on the student participation. The Sooner Schooner will traverse the field and the cannon will go off when the team enters the stadium. Every so often, you will see country music superstar and mega Sooner fan Toby Keith gracing the sidelines.
The seating is cozy depending on the price of the ticket you purchase but not uncomfortable. The stadium is bowl shaped with upper decks on the east and west with luxury boxes also on the east and new south end zone area. The stands are close to the field so there is not a bad view to be found. The fans are extremely knowledgeable of the game and are loyal to the end for their Sooners. You will hear the chant "Texas sucks" throughout the game and students will do the horns down symbol.
Many upgrades and additions have taken place through the years and it is considered to be one of the most beautiful facilities in all of college football. The most recent renovation started after the 2015 season and is still underway. The south end zone stands were torn down and replaced with a new enclosed bowl. Additionally, a gargantuan state of the art scoreboard/screen was erected. The outside facade is still being worked on but the interior was completed prior to the Sooners' first 2016 home game.
The marching band is awesome and will be heard loudly throughout the game playing Boomer Sooner. If you are a fan you will love that song. If you are rooting for the opponent, it will severely annoy you. Additionally, the Pride of Oklahoma band typically puts on a top notch performance at halftime. The cheerleaders keep their assigned sections actively charged up throughout the game. The fans that I once labeled as expectant back in the day are more anxious and enthused now.
I recommend sitting anywhere in the lower bowl as there is not a bad seat. The northeast side is the student section so unless you want to stand you will want sit anywhere else in the lower bowl. There is very little covered seating on the west side toward the top of the lower bowl.
The stadium sits on the picturesque campus of the University of Oklahoma in Norman, OK. If you come during the first two months of the fall semester be sure to visit the South Oval as it is lined with colorful mums. The campus is an assortment of old and new buildings all in the same Cherokee Gothic architecture as to mesh in a great mosaic symmetry. The Greek row area has incredibly large and stunning houses as Greek life is a big deal at OU. There are athletic fields and venues for every sport imaginable contained in the sprawling campus on the plains of Oklahoma. It is consistently ranked in the top 25 every year of the most beautiful campuses in the country. The surrounding neighborhoods consist of off campus college housing as well as high end communities and the commercial area of Norman. Norman is twenty miles south of Oklahoma City and is an extremely safe town with a lot of charm. The population of Norman is 118,000.
The best BBQ spot in Norman and perhaps the country is Vans Pig Stand. They have the very best ribs and chicken you will find. Mont is a Norman mainstay where they serve their famous Swirl drink in OU colors. The Campus Corner has an assortment of eateries and pubs as well.
The Sam Noble Museum on the campus of Oklahoma hosts exhibits ranging from natural history to the people of Oklahoma. It is great for families with kids of all ages and compares with any Smithsonian museum. Depending on the time of the year, you can catch the OU basketball team at the Lloyd Noble Center on the south side of campus. The Bart Connor Nadia Comaneci Gymnastic center is also in Norman.
Hotels tend to be expensive on game weekends which is typical of big time college football towns. I recommend the Embassy Suites for families and the Hampton Inn or Courtyard by Marriott for others. To save money you can also stay in Oklahoma City in the Bricktown area.
Sooner fans are "paint your face" passionate about their team. They work themselves up to a spirited fervor for the days leading up to the game. They are knowledgeable, respectful of the opponents and passionate.
Sellouts are the norm. For Big 12 Conference games, tickets can be hard to get. For the Bedlam game versus in state rival Oklahoma State, tickets can be downright impossible to find. For non conference "guarantee games" you might have 85% of the seats filled.
The crowd stays engaged throughout with chants and song and will cheer loudly for their Sooners. This is not a sit on your hands crowd or one that is preoccupied with taking selfies or other activities. With the new bowl in the south end zone the noise is louder than ever when the Sooners do something of merit.
Getting to the stadium from out of town is easier now with the advent of GPS. There are multiple exits off of interstate 35 that you will take east toward campus or town and make your way to your parking destinations. From the south you can travel on SR 77 right into Norman near the campus.
If you are not driving, there are about 2,000 Uber drivers on game day, or so it seems. Public transportation such as buses do not seem like an option that is worthwhile.
Parking is limited next to the stadium and requires a parking pass. There are ample lots around campus and at the Lloyd Noble Arena one mile south of Gaylord Memorial. Tailgating takes place everywhere you look. Walking from your parking spot to the stadium is easy as the campus is perfectly flat. Parking off campus close by the stadium typically costs $20. There are multiple gates with numerous ticket takers that make the flow manageable. The north end of the stadium may afford the easiest access from my experience.
With the double concourses, it is easy to get anywhere in the stadium. Also from your seat there is a contiguous path at the field level that allows you to traverse to a different part of the stadium. Even with 84,000 people in attendance you don't feel claustrophobic.
The product on the field, the atmosphere, all the tradition, pomp and circumstance and the history make for a high return on your investment.
Face value for tickets for non-students range from $65 and up for most games. Parking average is $20. Game day programs are $5 and are done professionally and make for great keepsakes. A meal will cost you $15- $20.
Catch the players entrance into the stadium two hours before kickoff. The Sooner "Walk of Champions" takes place on the south end of the stadium on Jenkins. The players exit the team buses and stroll down the road into the stadium in front of their adoring fans.
Another must is to watch The Pride of Oklahoma Marching Band one hour before the game. The band marches south down Jenkins Avenue toward the stadium belting out the Sooner fight song.
Visit the Switzer Museum and be sure to stop by the stadium store on the west side to pick up some Sooner "schwag."
Also, take a gander at the Heisman statues outside the stadium and just enjoy the company of friendly "Okies." The Heisman row area has life size statues of Billy Vessels, Steve Owens, Billy Sims, Jason White and current Minnesota Viking QB Sam Bradford.
Oklahoma is at the top of the heap in terms of academics, as well as having a great football program and facilities. You will not be disappointed. Give yourself plenty of time to enjoy all the pre-game activities in and around campus so you can absorb the full flavor of Sooner Nation.
There is nothing quite like a cool, breezy game day in Norman, Oklahoma. The bi-polar Oklahoma weather is normally on its best behavior in the fall, making football season the best time to travel to Norman. The Sooners have been the state's main sports attraction for decades and get the full attention of all Oklahomans.
Fans descend on Norman from all corners of the state to take in the sights and sounds before filing into the monument that is the 82,000 capacity Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. All of this and the history surrounding the program make it a can't-miss destination for the traveling football fan.
The OU crowd was not very nice in my two previous visits. They are extremely engaged and do make for a great college game atmosphere, though. Parking is not ideal near the stadium and there is not much to do within walking distance.
If you want to watch a team win at home, go see Oklahoma. Most of the fans are good, but some get quiet. Nothing extra during the game, just football. Great area though.
Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium has been the home of the Oklahoma Sooners football team since it opened on October 20, 1923. It is the 15th largest college stadium in the country and the second-largest in the Big 12 conference seating a full capacity of 82,112. The stadium has undergone numerous renovations in recent years, updating the jumbotron, restrooms, and concession stands.
My 3 trips to Norman have been special. My last trip was the Notre Dame game. The place was electric. Although the access before kickoff was very slow due to the stadium and event staff, not being prepared to hold the largest crowd, to attend a game at Memorial Stadium. The newly announced renovations should help in the future with better access to your seats. I believe visiting Norman, on a Saturday in the Fall, should be on every college football fan list.
Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium (a.k.a Owen Field) has been the site for the Oklahoma Sooners football team since it opened on October 20, 1923. The first game was a 63-7 win over Washington (MO) and the winning continues as the Sooners have an incredible 379-84-15 overall record in the stadium through 2015. Oklahoma Memorial Stadium is named in honor of the university personnel who died in World War I.
The stadium has undergone numerous renovations and upgrades over the years, especially in regards to its seating capacity. The stadium was built with add on seating, when the original west stands were erected in 1925 the capacity was 25,000. Then, the east stand raised capacity to 32,000, while the north end zone raised it to 55,000. Now with an upper deck, the stadium seating capacity is 82,112.
The Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium attendance record was set on October 27, 2012 against Notre Dame with 86,031 in attendance.
577 Buchanan Ave
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Norman, OK 73069
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320 N Porter Ave
Norman, OK 73071
2401 Chautauqua Ave
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Norman, OK 73019
2801 E State Highway 9
Norman, OK 73071
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Norman, OK 73072
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Norman, OK 73072
2501 Conference Drive
Norman, OK 73069