With March Madness heating up and the Jayhawks poised to make noise in the Tourney (KNOCK ON ALL THE WOOD), I had the lucky opportunity to explore the University of Kansas Athletics facilities through a Jayhawk Experience tour.
Check-in takes place in the Booth Hall of Athletics. If you’re always racing to get to your seats in Allen Fieldhouse to avoid missing tipoff, this tour is a perfect opportunity to truly experience everything the Booth Hall of Athletics has to offer. I suggest going early and spending some time exploring all the exhibits. There are fun “interactive” exhibits that help you compare your shoe size or wingspan (Jay Bilas anyone?) to famous Jayhawks of yesteryear, pop up exhibits of this year’s uniform sets, and of course, all the assorted hardware the various athletics programs have collected throughout the years—except our men’s basketball program is so successful that they have another whole trophy area in their office suites (more on that later). Make sure you look for the ring collection of long-time “Voice of the Jayhawks” Max Falkenstien. It’s fascinating to see how the ring styles changed over-time.
Our friendly tour guide, a KU freshman, had everyone introduce themselves and their hometowns. After highlighting the original Center Court and the original Beware of the Phog banner (made of nine shower curtains in 1988 for the Duke vs. KU game), we headed to the media room. Everyone had a chance to pretend to be Coach Self. Our tour guide noted correctly that being under those media lights is way more uncomfortable than you’d think.
Next up was the most exclusive part of the tour: the men’s basketball locker room. Geared toward impressing recruits and players, everything about this space is intended to remind its inhabitants of the historical excellence of the program and more specifically the success of the program under Bill Self. In the rotunda of the locker room, there are pictures of every player from the Bill-Self era who has gone on to play in the NBA (but plot twist, the pictures are of the players in KANSAS uniforms, emphasizing the importance of Kansas to get them where they wanted to go). There are also NBA jerseys of each of those players framed and hung in one of the hallways, plus, copies of every magazine SI cover featuring a Jayhawk player. The not so subliminal message of the entire space is nicely encapsulated by Danny Manning’s: “You come to KU for the tradition and you leave a part of it.” While we weren’t allowed to open anyone’s lockers, so I can’t tell you who the messy players are, it was neat to explore the space where the players spend so much of their time. We had a sneak peek that the team would be wearing special shoes to honor the Tuskegee Airmen against Oklahoma State because there was a reminder notice to break in the shoes up on one of the message boards in the locker room. Special highlights of the locker room tour included the multi-media set up with oversized chairs (or I guess normal-sized chairs if you’re tall enough to play basketball for KU) – where the team has their film sessions and will watch the NCAA selection show – plus KU and Jayhawk logo covered pool table, ping pong table, and gaming systems.
No tour of Allen Fieldhouse would be complete without a stop at James Naismith Court. While we weren’t allowed to show off our own basketball skills on the court, our tour guide dropped all kinds of neat facts on us during this portion of the tour. For example, did you know that when Allen Fieldhouse opened in 1956 a season ticket (with parking included) cost $16?!
Another neat part of the Jayhawk Experience was the tour was not entirely focused on men’s basketball (though it is obviously heavily featured). We had the opportunity to run the bases in Hoglund Ballpark, explore the absolutely gorgeous new Horejsi Family Volleyball Arena, mad dash around Anschutz Pavilion, and check out the state of the art weight training facility. Make sure you wear comfy shoes as the tour covers a lot of ground. Interesting facts gleaned from this portion of the tour: the field at Hoglund Ballpark is ENTIRELY turf (including the “dirt” base-paths) and Horejsi was completely torn down and rebuilt in 2019 to upgrade the facility and expand seating capacity (so the team could host NCAA regional competitions without losing the rowdy and intimate home-court advantage of an arena specifically designed to host volleyball matches). We also had the opportunity to see the basketball practice facility and donor rooms which were added to the Allen Fieldhouse complex in 2009.
But no tour of KU athletics facilities would be complete without a stop to see all the KU men’s basketball hardware. We swung by the men’s basketball offices (we weren’t allowed to go inside—as the team was set to return from their Big 12 clinching victory over the Baylor Bears). But the hallway outside the office complex is super impressive with massive glass trophy cases and a ton of framed photos of important and fun moments in KU basketball history. This hallway also features an ever-growing mural painting highlighting the rich history and tradition of Kansas Jayhawks basketball created by John Boyd Martin. The concept for the mural painting was started in 1979 by Head Coach Ted Owens—featured are great players, coaches and championship teams and the tradition continues today as any team who advances to the Final Four, or any player or coach who achieves special recognition is added to the mural painting. For example, recent additions include the 2018 Final Four team, Coach Self’s induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and KU’s NCAA record for consecutive conference titles.
The final stop on the tour is the document that started it all: James Naismith’s original rules of basketball. Purchased at auction by David Booth in 2010 for $4.3 million, the original rules, which are kept in a second-story walkway that connects the DeBruce Center to an Allen Fieldhouse entrance, are protected by electrochromic glass to help preserve the document. The DeBruce Center serves a dual role as a basketball history museum and student center. The highlight of this portion of the tour (outside of the rules document itself) is the amazing job the university did in highlighting the rules in other aspects of the building. The rules are carved in a walkway from the parking garage (pro tip: super neat picture to take at night as the rules are lit up) and the portraits of James Naismith and Phog Allen are composed of the rules themselves as well.Overall the Jayhawk Experience tour put me in the perfect “Rock Chalk” mood to cheer on the Jayhawks all the way to Atlanta (KNOCK ON WOOD!) See it all for yourself! Book a Jayhawk Experience tour here>