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Official Review by Erin Donnelly, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Lloyd Noble Center, constructed in 1975, is located off the campus of OU. Lloyd Noble’s arena floor is approximately 15,575 square feet around and the ceiling is 51 feet high. The stadium is a bowl which you enter from a higher level and descend toward the seats closer to the court. The student section is located in the northern zone of the arena, but all the other seating sections are open for the general admission attendees. Ticket price for students is $5 while general admission ranges from $10 to $25 depending on the caliber of the game. The Lloyd Noble stadium seats about 8,500 people.
The Oklahoma Sooners are part of the Big 12. Currently, Buddy Hield is the star of the OU basketball team, celebrating his last year as a Sooner before going on to the NBA. Notable alumnae from OU include OU football legend, Sam Bradford and basketball player Blake Griffin. The Sooners have been to the NCAA tournament 29 times. The 2016 season slated them in the number 2 or 3 seat for the tournament.
The University of Oklahoma was established in 1890 and there are about 22,152 undergrad students and 6,138 grad students. OU is always bustling with students as it provides extensive dorm housing for freshman and the Greek houses are located right next to campus which usually house sophomores. Small houses and apartments surrounding the university are filled by upperclassmen as well. OU’s campus is located in Norman, Oklahoma and is a college town through and through.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The food provided at Lloyd Noble is good quality, although a little pricey. There are 12 concession stands frequently placed at intervals along the two upper tiers of the stadium which keeps line length relatively short. Depending which concession stand you go to, the menu may vary. The service is great and speedy, and the workers possess that friendly charm that is unique to Oklahoma. Credit cards are acceptable.
Some of the most popular food items offered include hot dogs, nachos, personal pizzas, frozen yogurt swirls, and Dorito chip bags filled with jalapeńos, chili and cheese that makes for a spicy mix. The University of Oklahoma policy prohibits the sale of alcohol.
Another food service is provided through the Sooner Club. If you are a member, you get to attend an exclusive pregame buffet at the top corner of the stadium. The Sooner Club offers a wide selection of Mexican food, salad, desserts, and drinks.
Although OU's school spirit is always high, the atmosphere at the Bedlam rivalry game against Oklahoma State is especially exciting. The extensive history of this particular rivalry always gets students, as well as alumnae, competitive and hungry for bragging rights. Although Oklahoma State is only a couple hours drive from OU, the stadium will be packed with crimson and cream, and the few brave souls wearing orange in the stands will be hassled, as is to be expected.
The tone for the game is set during the announcement of the OU starting lineup. The lights of the stadium are turned off and the fans turn on their phone flashlights and wave them in the air in anticipation. With each name that is announced by the MC, a red burst of fire erupts from the top of each of the basketball hoops at either end of the court which sends the fans into a frenzy.
Another aspect that adds to the atmosphere of Lloyd Noble is the 360-degree scoreboard that hangs over the center of the court. It provides video footage of the game, replays, and funny gifs that follow each OU basket. The OU band, named the Pride of Oklahoma, keeps enthusiasm high throughout the entire game as their playing is almost non-stop. They play a selection of songs on repeat including the OU fight song and "Oklahoma."
Oftentimes the student section will sing along to the tune accompanied by a pointing hand motion that coincides with the beat. The students chant in unison "I'm Sooner born and Sooner bred, and when I die I'll be Sooner dead. Rah Oklahoma, Rah Oklahoma, Rah Oklahoma, OKU!" Needless to say, both the students and extensive alumnae present contribute to the high energy that raises the atmosphere to the next level.
The Lloyd Noble Center is located at the edge of OU's campus. While the classrooms and North and South Ovals containing the academic buildings are somewhat far removed, the basketball stadium is located near other sports facilities such as the Oklahoma tennis arena, soccer field, and baseball stadium. Norman's Campus Corner which contains shops, restaurants and bars frequented by OU students, is just a short drive down the road - a straight shot that's about a mile long.
The surrounding neighborhoods are quaint and very safe. Although Lloyd Noble's location allows for a more spacious venue, it does have a secluded feel to it and loses the charm that is native to the college town feel of the rest of Norman.
The fans are perhaps the best part of the experience at the Lloyd Noble Center. As the Sooner basketball team is having a banner year, the students are rallying around their team and their revered seniors.
The student section has a core group that stands at the front, nearest to the court. They hold signs as well as life size cut outs of OU basketball players' heads, and they dress up in all manner of crazy costumes from power rangers to zoo animals to pinstriped crimson and cream overalls. These kids go all out. They are also the ones that lead the chants and make sure the students are doing the superstitious hand gestures that have accumulated over the years.
For example, when an OU player is shooting a free throw, one of the chant leaders will yell "One's up" and everyone will raise their arms high in the air holding up the number one until the OU player has shot their basket. Another interesting thing the OU fans do, is when an OU player blocks a shot on defense, the chant leaders throw pairs of Sooner socks up into the student section as part of the "socks for blocks" ritual. The Ruffnecks also play a large part in keeping up morale. During time outs this rowdy group will run around the court and throw t-shirts into whichever section of the crowd cheers the loudest.
Another thing that makes the fans at Lloyd Noble unique is their pregame ritual. Each seat is stocked with a newspaper and a piece of paper that contains a chant sheet and the lineup of the opposing team complete with stats and comical insults. The students are expected to read up on their offenders and proceed to yell to them the insults included in their bios. An example: "Jeffrey Carroll - showers in a one piece... Mitchell Solomon - has a collection of garden gnomes... and Jawun Evans - collects his teammates socks."
The chant sheet instructs the students to read the newspaper during the announcement of the opponent's lineup. The newspaper is then torn up into tiny pieces and thrown into the air like confetti upon OU's first basket (free throws do not count). The chant sheet instructs the fans in the student section to never sit down while the ball is in play, to jump around and go absolutely crazy, and to chant certain lines at different instances in the game.
My personal favorite is the chant used when a player on the opposing team fouls out - the fans yell "left, right, left right," as the player steps off the court and then yells "SIT DOWN" when the player takes a seat on the bench.
Aside from the rituals and high spirit of the student fans, the alumnae and Norman residents who have followed OU for their entire lives are just as enthusiastic about their team. Their constant presence at games and passionate cheering keep spirits high.
Lloyd Noble Center is located in a secluded part of Norman. It isn't near to any main roads and there are generally only two feasible routes into the stadium's parking lot. This creates a large traffic pile-up, and although the stadium is not far from campus, it can be a very slow process getting in to the parking area.
Once you do enter the parking lot, an open spot is something of a rarity. Don't be surprised if you find yourself circling the lot numerous times before finally settling on a spot in the far corner of the lot. Also, expect to wait in a long line of cars upon trying to exit the lot after the game. The parking lot is somewhat compact as there are no parking garages on site and large sections of the parking lot are blocked off for alumnae season ticket holders.
While the actual line to get into the stadium is not bad for general admission, the student section can get extremely backed up. Students who are not season ticket holders often have to show up hours before rivalry games to wait in line for when tickets go on sale 30 minutes prior to tip off.
The Lloyd Noble Center offers a remarkable value for return on investment. A night spent at Lloyd Noble will be a night to remember and a guaranteed good time, especially if you attend a rivalry game. There is also something special about the Lloyd Noble experience this year (2016) as the Sooners are having an outstanding season and have found a star they can all rally behind in Buddy Hield. Be sure to arrive at the venue early to secure good seats so you can enjoy the game rather than stress about whether or not you will make it inside the stadium.
I would recommend walking the North and South Ovals of Oklahoma's campus. Although it is not directly next to the Lloyd Noble Center, it is about a minute's drive away and very worth it. The Cherokee Gothic red brick architecture of OU gives it a classic university feel. If you're lucky, you'll get to see the fields at the center of campus blooming with colorful mums and tulips. Another site that is a must see is Oklahoma's football stadium. Although it is currently under renovation, the new model should be an impressive sight. Be sure to end your night with stopping by O'Connell's on Campus Corner to enjoy the beloved Irish pub that turns into a karaoke bar on Wednesday nights.
Overall, the stadium experience at the Lloyd Noble Center is a remarkable one. The atmosphere and fan spirit at Lloyd Noble basketball games makes them unique events to attend. Although the stadium itself could be bigger and the parking arrangements could stand some improvement, it's definitely worth it. At the end of the night, you'll feel like you are a part of a special community that is unified by Sooner pride.
Member Review by pderrick
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.
320 N Porter Ave
Norman, OK 73071
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