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Official Review by Paul Derrick, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Located just twenty minutes from downtown Oklahoma City you will find the city of Norman, the home of the Oklahoma Sooners. The Sooners are known more for their football prowess and championships, but that doesn't mean that their basketball team does not put on a great show.
The Oklahoma Sooners have played their home basketball games at the beautiful Lloyd Noble Center since its opening in 1975. Even though the arena is just over thirty five years old it still has more than enough to offer the team and any fan in attendance. When walking around the Lloyd Noble Center an hour before the game I worried somewhat about the atmosphere I was about to enter. Unlike some of the other arenas I had visited throughout the Big 12, the Lloyd Noble Center didn't have fans standing outside the doors an hour before they opened. Upon entering the center those worries quickly left me. Lloyd Noble Center truly is the closest college arena I have seen to resemble an NBA arena. With extremely wide concourses and an abundance of concession stands, the Lloyd Noble Center is a beautiful arena that offers great a entertainment experience.
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The Lloyd Noble Center definitely isn't short in its variety of food and beverages. With a massive total of 12 fixed concession stands on the two levels. The concessions operated by OU Concessions, offer hot dogs, nachos, popcorn, pretzels, candy, coffee, deli sandwiches & wraps, personal pan pizzas, burritos, tacos, bottled water, and fountain drinks. Most items were reasonably priced but some items were a tad overpriced for a college venue.
You can also find some other selections from vendors like Pizza Hut and Chick-fil-A, which offer their normal pizza and chicken selections at typical prices. You should definitely not have any problems finding something to cure your growling stomach.
As I said earlier, the Lloyd Noble Center is an absolutely breath-taking arena. I would have never guessed it was over thirty-five years old. Before sitting down in your seat make sure to walk around the concourse and view the walls covered with great memories of Oklahoma men's and women's basketball. Of course, there are a lot more commemorations to the women's basketball teams due to their greater success especially over the last couple of years.
The arena is built so that every seat has a great view of the action. The Sooner basketball experience, as far as the entertainment value, is right on par with the rest of the Big 12. The fans on the other hand I found to be lacking that fire I saw at other Big 12 arenas. I don't know if this was because the Sooners were toward the bottom of the Big 12 or if this is a constant thing. In talking with some students they said the men's team usually draws less of a crowd than the women's team.
Overall, Sooners basketball provides some great entertainment, just don't expect that marquee rowdy college atmosphere that the Big 12 is known for.
Norman, Oklahoma is the third largest city in Oklahoma and provides an array of activities and places to eat and drink. One of the best places I found to eat was Van's Pig Stand mainly because I'm a sucker for great BBQ. Van's offers some of the best fall-off-the-bone BBQ ribs I have had and at great prices. If you're looking for great BBQ, then Van's is the place to get it.
I also recommend The Mont, a Norman favorite, which has some of the best queso I have ever had as well as a drink called the Sooner Swirl. I didn't try it due to having to drive but is highly rated by the locals. They had great prices and excellent service, and I definitely saw why they are a favorite in Norman.
Another great place I found to eat and highly recommend is the Bison Witches Bar & Deli. They offer some great deli sandwiches and have a good beer selection. I had the Sooner, which is roast beef and smoked turkey covered with melted gouda cheese and topped with honey-based spicy mustard. It was absolutely amazing especially when accompanied by a Pete's Wicked Ale.
There are tons of sights to see throughout campus including Heisman Park which has a statue of every Oklahoma Sooner Heisman Trophy winner. Make sure to also check right outside the basketball offices for an array of different basketball memorabilia from throughout the years, as well as an interesting "check your vertical leap" game, which was a hit with the kids.
You shouldn't have problems finding something to do in Norman and if you can't find anything there, then Oklahoma City is only a short trip away.
After sitting down in my seat approximately twenty minutes before gametime I was sort of shocked at the lack of attendance. Most Big 12 venues I have attended were almost full thirty minutes prior to gametime.
By gametime the stadium was about half full and the fans that were there did cheer on the Sooners throughout the game and boo in disapproval of the referees when warranted. As the game went on I did notice that it seemed that the lower section was filling up quite nicely, while the upper one seemed almost empty now. In talking with a fan he told me the ushers had asked all the people to head to the lower section to make the stadium look more full since the game was being televised on ESPN. Good thing for the fans but not so good for the university.
One thing that did highly disappoint me though was the lack of students in the student section. The student section had at most twenty-five people in it and even though they were very supportive, twenty-five people can only get so loud. The rest of the fans seemed to be either administration or old alumni and even though they did cheer on the Sooners during the game they just don't have that student craziness about them.
The Pep Band did an amazing job keeping the buzz of momentum going throughout the game. Oklahoma definitely has some great fans, I just think the majority of the students must be waiting for football to start again.
Access to the arena is extremely easy. The Sooners offer free parking for games and the parking lot is enormous which makes for easy access into and away from the arena. The concourses are wide enough to make walking around the arena a breeze, and make for easy wheelchair access. The bathrooms are abundant and I never noticed a line even during peak times.
You can grab a great seat for $35 to most games and have a pretty good meal at the arena for around $12-$15, which is a little pricey but worth it. I wouldn't say the atmosphere at the Lloyd Noble Center is a can't miss, but the arena definitely is. Great architecture and a beautiful court make this a must see place if you are ever in the area.
Oklahoma Basketball definitely isn't the best of the Big 12 as far as the atmosphere and fans go, but it's still a pretty good place to catch a game. Overall for $50 you should be able to see a
good game and have a pretty decent meal.
Definitely an extra point for the absolute beauty that is the Lloyd Noble Center. Another point goes to Boomer, one of the team's mascots who interacts wonderfully with the kids. I also love how the University of Oklahoma has remembered its past great players. From basketball to football they do a great job to commemorate these athletes.
Oklahoma may not be one of the best or most well-known college basketball teams in the country, but the university makes sure that its fans have a wonderful place to view the game. You may find a better college basketball atmosphere, but I'm pretty sure you will have a hard time finding a better venue to watch it in.
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320 N Porter Ave
Norman, OK 73071
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