Last week I was in Kansas visiting family and got a chance to see Phog Allen Fieldhouse. I should probably disclose my allegiances right up front: I'm a Maryland fan, but my grandparents live in Kansas so I've always liked the Jayhawks.
The Campus and Lawrence
One thing that always surprises me when I visit Kansas is how it's not really flat. Eastern Kansas has a lot of hills, and the KU campus is very hilly. It's a really nice campus, though. Some of the buildings look a little dated, and it doesn't have the consistent look for all the buildings that schools like Maryland, UVA, and Georgetown go for. But there's lots of open space and it looks like a great place to go to school.
Lawrence is an awesome college town. The main drag (Massachusetts Street) is lined with shops and restaurants and bars, with a real Small Town USA feel to it. We were only there for a few hours during the day (and it's Summer) but I could imagine how it would be on a Saturday night or after a basketball game.
When we pulled up to Allen Fieldhouse, we parked in a garage right next to the building. We didn't even realize how close we were to the arena until we looked at the map. From the outside, it doesn't look like much. I don't know if we just approached from the wrong side of the building, but I wasn't too impressed with the outside.
After walking through the building, I stepped outside and got a picture of the entrance to the Booth Family Hall of Athletics (more on that later) with a statue of Phog Allen. If this is the main entrance to the fieldhouse, it looks nice, but nothing too special. Fortunately, what Allen Fieldhouse lacks in external charm, it more than makes up for once you step inside.
After a friendly athletic department employee helped us find one of the unlocked doors into the building, we were able to step right out onto the floor of the arena (ignoring the small sign saying the floor was not open to the public).
In this picture, Allen Fieldhouse looks almost like an NBA arena, but in person that's definitely not the case. It reminded me a lot of Cole Fieldhouse (the old Maryland arena). The building is a huge barn or aircraft hangar. The scoreboard looks very new, but that's about the only modern amenity in the whole building.
Other than the tan seats in the upper left of the photo above, all of the seats are bleachers. I think sitting on bleachers would be annoying, but I can see how it would let you pack in more people closer together, which should make the building very loud on gamedays (plus, who sits down at college basketball games?).
The concourses are all hidden under the stands and there are no luxury boxes. It didn't look like there has been a lot of upgrades done to the concourses since the arena was built, but the facilities are nice enough. I'm not big on buying food at sports events anyway, so it doesn't bother me to have only a few concession stands without much selection.
What is most striking about walking into the stands is the history you can feel in the building. There have been so many great players who've stepped on that floor over the years, and you really get a sense that it's a very special place for college basketball.
Without a doubt, the coolest thing about Allen Fieldhouse is the KU Athletics museum attached to it (called the Booth Family Hall of Athletics). All of the history you feel inside Phog is presented in artifacts and exhibits on the entire history of sports at KU. Everything from James Naismith to Dean Smith to Wilt Chamberlain to the 2008 NCAA Championship trophy (and a bunch of stuff from other sports) is covered there.
I came in expecting to like Phog Allen Fieldhouse, but I left loving it. I definitely want to get back and see a Jayhawks game there. I can only imagine how loud and rocking the atmosphere is during a game. In fact, we enjoyed the visit so much that we even bought my son a KU shirt.
I don't really know how to give Allen Fieldhouse an overall rating, except to say that it's definitely one of the shrines of college hoops and visiting it made me wish that Maryland had kept Cole Fieldhouse around instead of replacing it.
I've looked a few times for good Maryland-related desktop wallpapers, so I thought KU fans might like this wallpaper I made from one of the pictures I took during the visit.