I have been blessed in this life to have traveled to Europe and to have toured some of its most beautiful churches and cathedrals, both when empty and full. When I am describing Allen Fieldhouse to the uninitiated, I draw upon these experiences as they represent the closest thing to Allen that I know. Allen Fieldhouse is a wonder to behold when full - teeming with energy, its skies filled with falling newsprint and the sounds of the greatest sport - but it is also venerable when empty. Indeed, walking around an empty Allen Fieldhouse, you will hear the echo of your own footsteps, you will bask in the mid day light that feels nearly identical to the light of Saint Peter's, and you will respect the achievements of those who came before you.
I suppose it's not surprising that the statement below, that comes to us via the Lawrence Journal World, comes from a kid who grew up in Missouri.
But Jeff Butcher, a sophomore from Springfield, Mo., said he liked mixing modern architecture with old-time designs.
"I think it's cool," he said. "It's not like a church or anything. A lot of people get carried away. They need to remember that it's only basketball. It's not like the fieldhouse is sacred or holy or anything. Everything changes."
Let's put aside for the moment that everything does indeed change, and that it is only basketball. Even granting Young Butcher (another startling coincidence, I think) the ephemeral nature of all things, and even granting him the somewhat myopic statement 'it's only basketball', he hasn't in any way established that the Fieldhouse is neither sacred nor holy.
I, a religious man myself, with keen sensitivities about using the Lord's name in vain and not being profane, would argue that the Fieldhouse is both sacred and holy, much like a church. Before I get all Ontological on you, I had better just get to the point - the Fieldhouse is sacred. It deserves a special place in history because it has earned it. It has survived several iterations of arena trends. It watched the Hearnes Center rise, and it watched it fall; it watched the Paige Sports Arena arrive like a blinged out starlet, and it watched her hurry to the corner in embarrassment before hiding behind the most generic of all names. Allen will watch the Mizzou Arena be converted to a nameless multipurpose facility in years distant. Allen will watch the implosions of stadia built 10 years from now and it will be standing long after I can no longer go to games.
Personally, I believe that certain renovations, if done respectfully, can be made to Allen Fieldhouse. Better bathrooms - there's certainly nothing wrong with them. Indeed, I am in favor of the current project as well. I am somewhat ambivalent about the possibility of constructing an outer facade on the West side of the Fieldhouse, thus allowing the West windows to be converted to suites. On the one hand, there's something unsettling about it. On the other hand, they did a good job doing something very similar (facade construction) on the North side of the building, and suites would take a lot of the stodgy, ignorant corporate types ( I can say this freely because if you are reading this, you aren't one of them), place them in the climate controlled paradise to which they aspire, and put more real fans into the screaming section.
But if anything is to be done, today, tomorrow or a hundred years from now, it must be done in the true spirit of that great and blessed hall, my favorite building in all the world, Allen Fieldhouse.