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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Allen Fieldhouse at the University of Kansas, Lawrence KS

Allen Fieldhouse is located on the campus of the University of Kansas in Lawrence KS. It is home to the Kansas men's and women's basketball teams with a capacity of 16,300. The classic Kansan building is made of lime stone from the nearby prairie. It is named after legendary Kansas basketball coach Dr. Forrest Clare "Phog" Allen. "Phog" Allen coached at KU from 1919-1956 winning national championships in 1922, 1923, and 1952. As a student at KU Allen played for the inventor of basketball, Dr. James Naismith, beginning in 1904. Allen coached players who would go on to become Hall of Fame college coaches in their own right, among them Dean Smith (North Carolina) and Adolph Rupp (Kentucky). Between Kansas, North Carolina, and Kentucky, the three schools are members of an elite club to have notched 2,000 wins each. In that light, it seems like the fundamentals of both playing and winning were taught at Allen Fieldhouse. Allen also recruited Wilt Chamberlain to Kansas, and even coached former United States Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole. Allen was instrumental in basketball being accepted as an Olympic sport in 1936. Allen Fieldhouse was dedicated on March 1, 1955 when the Kansas Jayhawks defeated their in-state rival, the Kansas State Wildcats, 77-67. The actual playing surface at Allen is the James Naismith Court

Allen Fieldhouse has hosted several NCAA tournament regional and NBA exhibition games. Occasional concerts there have featured The Beach Boys, Elton John, Sonny and Cher, Leon Russell, Alice Cooper, ZZ Top, Tina Turner, Harry Belafonte, Henry Mancini, The Doobie Brothers, Kansas and Bob Hope. It has also hosted various speakers, including former U.S. President Bill Clinton in 2004, U.S. presidential candidate Senator Robert F. Kennedy (which drew over 20,000) in 1968, and activist Abbie Hoffman in 1970. More recently a group of American Indian singers and dancers from nearby Haskell Indian Nations University performed at half time of a women's basketball game.

Just getting to the Allen Fieldhouse location on campus can feel like a pilgrimage completed. Basketball fans from all over the United States seek this gym out, to look around and breathe the air; they travel just to touch the hallowed walls. Stepping into a non-game day darkened arena is like entering a basketball shrine. It's so quiet you might think you have to take your shoes off. When you walk around the concourse there is a palatable mystique that is hard mistake. With such an aura you might expect to see votive candles burning quietly in the corner. Allen is very clean and mostly untouched since the early days. Residing in the nondescript campus building underneath the vintage architecture of curved iron roof supports are the spirits of former players like Chamberlain, Jo Jo White, Danny Manning, Paul Pierce, and Kirk Heinrich. So much so you can almost feel their presence standing next to you.

The nearest top flight collegiate facility that is comparable in stature would be the now-retired Jenison Fieldhouse (MSU, East Lansing MI). Others in proximity include Hinkle Fieldhouse (Butler University, Indianapolis IN) and Welsh-Ryan Arena (Northwestern University, Evanston IL). Allen Fieldhouse is one of the few classic structures still hosting basketball games today.

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