It was a little more than an hour from tipoff on a sunny Saturday afternoon outside of Phog Allen Fieldhouse when the following was heard from a group of fans who were making their way up the sidewalk: “Man, this place still gives me goose bumps.”
In these parts, if the University of Kansas men’s basketball serves as a religion to many, then the six-decade-old sports venue is its cathedral where traditions are preserved and history is chronicled. A stroll through the hallway leading to the KU locker room tells the story with banners featuring a series of numbers: 56 conference titles, 16 College Basketball Hall of Fame members, 14 Final Four appearances, five national championships.
Named after famed coach Dr. Forrest C. “Phog” Allen, the building sits on Naismith Drive, in honor of James Naismith, the founder of the game and the only KU basketball coach to have a losing record. A statue of Allen stands in front of the east side of the building, where the Booth Family Hall of Athletics resides.
The hall is just one of a string of enhancements that have been made over the past few years to spruce up the place. It won’t be long until another annex is added to include a viewing area for Naismith’s original rules of basketball, which were purchased by David Booth, the same namesake of the hall of fame, from an auction for $4.3 million.
“I think’s it great. It gives you a complete sense of history as it’s happening,” said one longtime fan about all of the extra exhibits. “It creates the whole picture of KU sports… but the experience is Allen Fieldhouse itself, watching a game, being with other fans. The whole essence of being at a KU game is inside.”
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The amount of food options has certainly grown with the recent renovations. There are numerous stations on all three levels. The main stands feature all of the classic items (hot dogs for $4, pretzels for $4.50, popcorn for $4-$5, nachos for $4) and Coke products.
Fans can expand beyond the basics with offerings from local favorite Bigg's Barbecue (most popular item: burnt ends for $9) and Salty Iguana (try the Bill Self Burrito for $7). Sweeter options include Coldstone Creamery stands ($3-$6) that also offer caramel apples and kettle corn cinnamon roasted almonds from The Kettle Stop ($5 for a small, $8 for a large).
Ask anyone around these parts what the capacity of the fieldhouse and they'll tell you: 16,300. It's the attendance number that has been listed for well over 200 consecutive sold out games. When looking around at the configuration of seats (with the highest seats actually being risers in the corners), it really is remarkable that the building can fit that many people within its walls. It helps that most seats are bleachers with numbers written pretty close next to each other, but fans do not mind - and could not fathom a less intimate environment for those two hours that would come from a more major dramatic renovation or an entirely new venue.
The technological touches that have been added to the building do a commendable job of supplying those modern amenities that fans have grown accustomed to (such as LED scoreboards and signs), while still keeping the charm of the original infrastructure intact. One note about the main scoreboard: The players' stats are a little on the small side and therefore can be tough to read at first glimpse.
Those wanting to see the giant Jayhawk on the center of court facing them should sit on the west side (where the home and away benches are as well). Directly above, 14 Final Four banners stretch the length of the court. On the north end, one will find five national championship banners. At the south end, there are 28 banners, one for each retired jersey. You may not recognize the No. 60 on the far right, but that one pays tribute to the 60 years that retired broadcaster Max Falkenstein served as the radio voice of the team.
No trip to Lawrence is complete without a stroll down Massachusetts Street, a.k.a. "Mass Street." It is the city's main strip downtown where patrons can find countless opportunities to dine, drink, shop or simply people watch on one of its many benches. One of the more popular places is Free State Brewing Company near Seventh Street, which brews its creations on site.
Those wanting to grab the latest KU gear should swing by Jock's Nitch near Ninth Street. Visitors in search of a truly unique bar need to head to the Replay Lounge off of Ninth Street with its colorful environment, live music and more pinball machines than most. Away from Mass Street, one popular bar and grill is the 23rd Street Brewery near the corner of Clinton Parkway and Kasold Drive.
Lodging can be tough to come by for game day weekends. The closest hotel to the arena is the Best Western at the corner of Clinton Parkway and Iowa Street. Those wanting to stay on campus should check out The Oread on Oread Avenue, located right next to the football stadium on the northeast corner of campus. A collection of hotels can also be found near the intersection of Iowa and Sixth Streets.
The students do not ring the court like other venues, but they are behind both baskets - and they are loud with colorful signs to match their energy. Even before start of a game against TCU, a team that had yet to win a conference game, the atmosphere could best be described as electric. It can be quite a sight to see all of the students holding up newspapers when the opposing team is announced, only to shred them up and sprinkle extra newspaper confetti both when the home team is announced and the Jayhawks register their first points.
Fans are knowledgeable of the game and wear the school colors, so much so that those who do not tend to stand out. Students and non-students alike all participate in a set of traditions such as "waving the wheat" when a player fouls out and after victories and the well-known Rock Chalk chant (see below). Note: Unless you shell out major money, you will most likely be in the wooden general admission section seats in the northwest corner where standing students mix with the GA patrons to create a gray zone of whether to sit or stand, so be warned.
The parking situation is not ideal. All nearby lots are reserved for season ticket holders and other school glitterati. Regular folks usually opt to park at the Park-and-Ride lot located west of the arena at the corner of Clinton Parkway and Crestline Drive. The good news is that it's free to both park and take a shuttle, which begins its rounds two hours before tip off and runs until a half hour after the final buzzer. Another option is to park at Lied Center, the university's main performing arts building, and take the walk down what is known as Daisy Hill down Irving Hill Road, but that's quite a hike when blustery weather strikes.
All of the building's concourses are wide, comfortable and well-marked. In terms of bathrooms, they have been renovated and look brand new on all three levels. There seems to be a lack of men's bathrooms, though, on the second and third floors.
As long as the Jayhawks keep signing future NBA lottery picks at such a prolific rate, ticket prices will not be coming down anytime soon. General admission tickets are $70 ($30 more than when KU and TCU played in Fort Worth). That climbs to $80 for bigger names. Those prices, though, seem like a steal when compared to the triple-digit attempted larceny that can be found on ticket sites such as StubHub. Still, it's worth the money for a college basketball junkie. The free parking and shuttle certainly helps.
One point is rewarded for everything in the arena being covered in vivid blues and reds in the seating area - from the rails to the steps to the stairs.
One point is given for the Booth Family Hall of Athletics. At 19,000-plus-square feet, it's one of the larger such spectacles that is directly a part of a college athletic venue. The hall is always free and makes a great stop when stopping by the area anytime of year. It is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday (and on Sunday game days).
One point is awarded for the Rock Chalk chant before the game and in the closing minutes (if the game is out of hand in KU's favor). It has been said the chant has almost a Gregorian-monk feel inside the fieldhouse. The sound certainly can create an eerie feeling for opponents.
One point is given for the walkway on the building's northwest corner that connects the player's locker room to the court. KU fans (mostly the younger ones) have the opportunity to stand in line to give a high-five to their favorite players before the game, afterwards, and during halftime - an opportunity not offered at most major college basketball venues.
One point is rewarded for the glass windows on both ends of the fieldhouse that allow plenty of sunlight to speckle the crowd. A sunny weekend day game is a much different experience than a night game in terms of aesthetics.
There's a reason so many national media members call it one of the best places to watch a college basketball game. Fans of the sport with a bucket list of venues to visit owe it to themselves to find out why.
When you think of the most historic institutions in the sport of college basketball, the Kansas Jayhawks are one of the first teams that come to mind. Some of the greatest names in the sport have played and/or coached in their home arena, Phog Allen Fieldhouse. Opened in 1955, Phog Allen Fieldhouse offers the very best for lovers of sports. A trip to Lawrence, Kansas is a trip that you will never forget.
For my money, there isn't a better venue in all of college sports than Allen Fieldhouse. It combines unparalleled basketball and program history with one of the best crowds in college basketball in one of the last remaining barn-style venues in the United States.
It's one of the few true, definite, and consensus "must-visit" places in sports, and rightfully so.
Worth a visit.
Allen Fieldhouse exceeded all (very high) expectations...it's a trip through time. The place is a museum, a shrine to college basketball. The fans are amazing, knowledgeable and very friendly. A fantastic experience.
I like eggs.
Unfortunately, I haven't been to a game in a few years. But Phog Allen Fieldhouse is one of those places that will never change. The experience is unlike any other. Fans, students especially, pile in a good two hours before the game starts. And your legs will hurt when the final buzzer sounds. That's because everyone stands up the entire game, besides the timeouts and halftime. No one leaves early and no one stops yelling. Just over 16,000 seats but it gets louder in the Fieldhouse than some NBA stadiums.
Parking seemed to be very tough for anyone driving into campus for the game, there are many available lots but some require quite a walk to get to the actual Fieldhouse. But the KU campus is gorgeous and there is so much to do in the lovely college town. I may be biased since I am an alum, but with the history, fan support, neighborhood (the whole town basically shuts down on gamedays) and level of play, there may not be a better place to watch college basketball.
Being a resident of Kansas, I have been to all major DI schools to watch a basketball game. Even when Kansas plays a team you know they are going to blow out, I've seen students camping the night before. Soak up and enjoy the experience. Must see for the college basketball fan.
Best college basketball atmosphere in the country. Especially when the Jayhawks are in a close game, the noise level is incredible. The Fieldhouse is both nostalgic and cutting edge in the Hall of Fame fan interaction displays. A must see and experience for all college basketball fans! Rock Chalk, Jayhawks! Go KU!
It's been over a decade since I've been to Allen Fieldhouse but I can remember it like it was last week.
Both were games against Iowa State during the Cyclones' Big XII title years in 2000 & 2001. Both games were decided by two points with ISU winning both. The 2001 game was part of the old 'Big Monday' ESPN telecasts. The games featured future (and current) NBA players Kirk Hinrich, Nick Collison, Drew Gooden, Jamal Tinsley & Marcus Fizer among others.
The place was absolutely electric and as loud as any arena or stadium I've heard (since matched by Chesapeake Energy Arena in OKC). The makeup of the arena with the flat roof forces the sound back down into the area. It's more of a gym than an arena but the old school charm is unmatched. I haven't made it to Cameron Indoor Stadium yet but that is the only venue that I imagine could compare.
Having been so long ago I'm guessing at some of the ratings categories but it was one of the best atmospheres I've ever experienced, college or pro.
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