Phog Allen Fieldhouse – Kansas Jayhawks
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Beware of “The Phog”
Let me say this strategically; Allen Fieldhouse is the best college basketball arena, if not the best home of any sports team, and anyone who would argue otherwise is a close-minded homer. Only a Kentucky fan would argue that Rupp Arena is on the same level as “The Phog”. Only someone wearing a UNC or Duke shirt would say the Dean Dome or Cameron Indoor are equivalent to the Jayhawks home court. Pauley Pavilion, The Pit, Assembly Hall, all fall short of the glory that is the temple of college basketball, where the Jayhawks play on a court named for the inventor of the game (James Naismith, who was the first KU coach), and in a building named for a man who is given credit to creating modern basketball coaching (Forrest Allen, winner of three national titles). The Jayhawks are privileged to have the best home court advantage in all of major American athletics.
Discussing coach Bill Self’s home record is an exercise in absurdity. Since 2003, the team has lost 10 home games, and won 13 straight conference titles, a record. There’s been a winning streak of 69 games, and a few longer than 40. Self has never lost two home games in a row. KU has not lost a Senior Day game in 32 years. Self’s home winning percentage is better than 95%. The Jayhawks have not missed the NCAA tournament since 1988, when they were banned from postseason play for a rule that that has since been changed. Their seeds in the NCAA Tournament since Self’s arrival are 4, 3, 4, 1, 1, 3, 1, 1, 2, 1, 2, 2, and 1. No team has been more successful or consistent in the last 15 years, and no small part of that is due to the power of The Phog.
Food & Beverage 4
Allen Fieldhouse has a great selection of sports snacks (nachos, popcorn, hot dogs, pizza and Coke products), all for decent stadium prices. They have several food stands shilling out local favorites, like the Bill Self Burrito from Salty Iguana and the pulled pork sandwich from Bigg’s BBQ. You can also find specialty cookies and desserts at other food stands in various levels of the concourse.That being said, going to Allen Fieldhouse to experience the food scene is kind of like flying to Rome to check out the airport; it doesn’t make any sense. Yes, there is food, and if you’re starving, you will find something good to eat, but you’re best to leave the concession line and experience The Phog, just as you would hightail it out of Leonardo da Vinci airport to see the Eternal City. My advice is grab a souvenir Coke, a box of popcorn, and get to your seat early to enjoy the show.
Simply put, nothing matches the atmosphere of the Fieldhouse. In 2017, the arena set a new Guinness World Record for loudest indoor stadium at more than 116 decibels, louder than a jet or chainsaw. And, that’s not with piped in crowd noise or speakers blaring music, that is pure fan jubilation. Beyond just the crowd noise, the pep band does a really amazing job performing all the standard KU songs, but they also throw in 80s and 90s pop and rock favorites, current rap hits, and the Game of Thrones theme that’s so hot right now. The cheerleaders and dance team have choreographed steps for many of these songs, just proving that every part of game production is practiced and perfected. It is an amazing place to watch ANY game, small non-conference contest or major conference rivalry.
Before each game, the video board plays a highlight video that is re-cut each week to show recent highlights, or older highlights against that day’s opposition. When the video gets to the Mario Chalmers tying three-pointer from the 2008 national championship game, the crowd reaction will be nearly deafening. It WILL give you chills, regardless of your team affiliation.
Lawrence, Kansas is a perfect college town. Big enough population to have movie theatres, restaurants, and shopping, but not so big that the city outshines the university. The city’s political compass points liberal, like you would expect being so near a large university, but that liberal spirit keeps out a lot of the chain restaurants, and promotes a love of local spots. Mass(achusetts) Street is the heart of the downtown district, just a few blocks from the edge of campus and a short drive from Allen Fieldhouse. Papa Keno’s pizza is a great place to grab a slice, and the Red Lion tavern is a casual local pub. Live music is big in Lawrence, and there are several places to catch local acts, or mid-major national artists. The best burger and fries you’ll ever have are served at The Burger Stand, and the Sandbar is a great local tiki hut just off Mass.
Closer to campus, and popular with the college and alumni crowd, The Wagon Wheel Cafe is one of the most acclaimed college bars in the country. It’s stood in the same spot for more than 60 years. Sportscenter anchors often shout out the joint, and its famous “Wangburger” (a cheeseburger with a fried egg).
Although #BBN (Kentucky’s Big Blue Nation) may argue the point, Kansas fans are the best in the country. 16,300 pack the fieldhouse for every game (more than 200 sellouts in a row, in fact). They are the loudest, as proven with the noise record set this season. They routinely fill the stands for conference road games, often so much that you can hear them doing the Rock Chalk Chant when the Jayhawks inevitably win. They know all the players by name and face, where that player came from, and often know the same for opponents. Perhaps most importantly, they are a classy group, never cursing like the inferior fans down the river from Lawrence, and in fact applauding good play, as evidenced by the standing ovation they gave Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield following his 46 point performance in the 3OT thriller in January 2016. This is a group that loves college basketball, not exclusively Jayhawk basketball, and they have an intimate knowledge of the history of the game that may just be limited to those lucky enough to be fans of the team that the inventor of the game coached.
The only issue with KU home games is that tickets do not run cheap. It used to be that you could get a non-conference GA ticket for around $20 (GA seats are in the high corner bleachers), but even those are hard to find now. It’s not a stretch to say that Kansas home games are one of the largest collections of wealth in the Midwest. Any conference match-up will run North of $100 per ticket. Season tickets require a hefty annual donation. Once you’ve acquired your tickets, you should get to the area early to try to find free street parking nearby on campus, unless you have a parking pass for the lot that is connected to the building. Bathrooms are numerous and easy to find, and the concourses have been recently renovated to be brighter and wider. There are special sections for wheelchairs, directly behind the baskets, the best seats in the house.
Return on Investment 5
Tickets aren’t cheap, but like a lot in life, you certainly get what you pay for at the Fieldhouse. $80-$100 for one of the greatest live sports experiences on the planet is a fair price. The Super Bowl will cost way more and be less fun. This is truly a bucket list item. Just ask Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, who made his pilgrimage a couple years back for that very reason. Celebrity sightings are far more common than they should be for a college basketball game in the middle of the country, with comedians like Paul Rudd, Jason Sudeikis and Rob Riggle being noteworthy Jayhawks fans. Music artist Trey Songz came two years ago to watch his childhood friend, KU point guard Frank Mason. Of course, the real stars are the ones with the KU jerseys, and no shortage of those guys have gone on to NBA play, including guys like Paul Pierce, Andrew Wiggins, and Wilt Chamberlain.
In addition to hosting an occasional basketball game, Allen Fieldhouse is a full-fledged Kansas sports museum. Trophies and uniforms and balls and rings from all KU sports are housed in museum-quality exhibits in the entryway. You’re highly advised arrive early to view the cases, and test your skill on the many games in the area, like the vertical jump meter and reaction time test. The walls are plastered with action shots of former players, as well as all of Sports Illustrated covers featuring the Jayhawks. Banners hang in the halls proclaiming the numerous Final Fours, conference titles, All-Americans, and national championships. Inside the arena, there are too many banners to count displaying the same, as well as retired jerseys, and famously, the long banner above the national championships with the warning “Pay Heed, All Who Enter: BEWARE OF ‘THE PHOG'”.
Most notably, Allen Fieldhouse is home to the original rules of basketball, the two pieces of paper, penned by James Naismith, that sold at an auction to a Kansas alum for a sports memorabilia record $4.3 million back in 2010. The building add-on, called the DeBruce Center, hosts the original rules, as well as serves as a union style building for students during the week. Dedicated in Fall of 2016, the center is also used for donor events during home games, although the original rules will be visible to the general public at all times. The rules are a must see for anyone taking a pilgrimage to the Phog.
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