You do not come to Allen Fieldhouse for comfort. To grumble that you're going to be stuck on a flat bleacher seat for two or three hours watching the Kansas Jayhawks play basketball would be like complaining about having to hang upside down to kiss the Blarney Stone. Some things are worth not only the cost but also the price you must pay. Allen hasn't enjoyed the same sort of P.R. as Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium, but there is no more delightful place to watch a college basketball game than KU's home court.
Allen Fieldhouse is a gym. It is not an arena. It is not a palace of 21st century excess. There are no luxury boxes. Luxury at Allen is one of the few chair-back seats that belong mostly to the big donors. If you purchase general admission tickets to a game through KUathletics.com, you will be warned: "Fans in general admission may have to stand to be able to see the court." That's just how it is.
You come to Allen for basketball. If you're really lucky, you come for one of KU's few afternoon home games, such as the visit from the Miami RedHawks on December 22, when you can get a glimpse of the sun shining through the windows that line the top of each end zone. It's not like it used to be, when the rays would beam through and light up tiny rectangles on the court. The players never were wild about that, so when the building underwent its most recent renovation, before the 2005-06 season, the windows were tinted to reduce the glare. At least they didn't put in miniblinds.
Bill Hoagland never got the chance to play in Allen and is faintly jealous of the Jayhawks who have. A member of KU's 1952 national championship team, he moved back to Lawrence in 1991 and hasn't missed a home game since. He has six season tickets, all of them in the bleachers. He doesn't worry about the tight quarters. "I don't think about that," he says. "I'm there to watch the game."
Named for legendary KU coach Phog Allen, the Fieldhouse was built partly as a training facility for the ROTC and opened in March 1955. There was a dirt track around the court then, so the place is more comfortable than it used to be. The school has installed a more modern scoreboard and sound system and expanded the concession stands, which means there are some of the expected spectator amenities.
Visitors are encouraged to show up an hour before game time, but it's worth stopping by the day before to see the students camping out in Allen's halls. With the televisions and laptop computers they bring and available Internet access, it's not exactly hard living, but it does show a commitment to the program--because all the campers already are assured of tickets. They're in line to get the prime seats.
Like all the best college basketball home courts, Allen Fieldhouse features a rowdy student section-- with more than 4,000 of its 16,300 seats reserved for them. They have the requisite alliterative nickname--the Phog Phanatics--but, unlike many of their contemporaries, they never give the impression they are trying to be part of the show. Their haunting "Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk" chant is a far cry from some of the look-at-me cleverness that's epidemic elsewhere. KU fans are trying to be part of the result, which is an altogether different thing.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Although KU has sold out 92 consecutive home games, it's still possible to visit its website, kuathletics.com, and pick up general admission seats for any of seven remaining games this season. They're not cheap -- $45 apiece -- but you don't complain about the price of 12-year-old Scotch or a Morton's filet.
There also are some tickets available on the secondary market. Stubhub.com has dozens of seats available for the December 22 Miami RedHawks game, with prices ranging from $47 for general admission to $412 for front-row seats near midcourt. On eBay, there are tickets available for several games by online auction.
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