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Friday, May 23, 2003

Fieldhouse just dandy, Self says

New KU basketball coach sold on Allen's aura

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There are no plans in the works to replace tradition-rich Allen Fieldhouse, home of Kansas University men's basketball the past 48 seasons.

That's a relief to new Jayhawk coach Bill Self, who is hoping KU's hoops palace will stand another 20 to 25 years.

"The day will come," Self said of Allen Fieldhouse being replaced with a brand-new, multi-million-dollar arena, "but I am sure it won't come when I am on watch. I love this place. You can never capture what this building means -- the history and tradition -- if you play outside of it."

Self knows all about KU's homecourt advantage in Allen Fieldhouse. As a player at Oklahoma State from 1981-85, Self participated in one victory and four defeats in Allen.

During the 1985-86 season, he worked as a KU graduate assistant for Larry Brown, whose Jayhawks went 15-0 at Allen in a Final Four season.

KU's 40-year-old coach admits the building hasn't changed much since his own collegiate playing days.

"I think it's great they haven't changed Allen as far as the look, the intimacy, those sorts of things," Self said. "But I think facilities will always be a never-ending process. You always look to upgrade what you already have. I do think the fieldhouse, without taking anything away from the historical perspective, can be enhanced. I think that will be important to do, but a new arena? No."

On the job for a month, Self already has an idea of what would make the fieldhouse more attractive to fans and players alike.

"We need a video board," Self said. "We need to, and they will, re-do the floor this year, sand it down and repaint it. At some point in time, I'm sure some things need to be done seating-wise as far as painting. There are things I think need to be done to it that are obviously important, but I wouldn't think you would want to alter the look at all."

Perhaps the biggest priority -- even ahead of painting the bleacher seats, which hasn't been done since the 1970s -- is funding and installing a video board.

The company that installed boards for Dallas' American Airlines Arena has spoken with KU officials and is putting together a proposal.

"There are definitely some things in the works," Self said, "but there are some things that structurally may need to be done before they can do that."

KU senior associate athletic director Richard Konzem said a video scoreboard, which probably would cost around $3 million, likely would hang in the center of the arena.

The project would cost more if new lights and sound system were included in the project.

"The weight issue has been a consideration," Konzem said. "We are hoping that now a few years have passed (since first talking about boards) and some of the electronics is lighter. They keep making that stuff smaller, more lightweight. We can get to the point it will work with minimal redesign and engineering."

Some arenas, like Nebraska's Devaney Center, have hung video replay boards in the upper deck.

"We're thinking it would most likely hang in the center. Any end wall (board) would cover up the windows, which are such a distinctive part of Allen," Konzem said. "It would dramatically change the look of the building. We don't want to rule it out, but it's probably not something we'll do."

It is virtually certain no board will hang in Allen next season. Funding has not been obtained, and the fieldhouse is booked with camps all summer and will be used extensively when the students return to campus in August.

Konzem says it was a yearly challenge to keep the fieldhouse looking presentable.

"This is a situation (where) we have a building that will soon be 50 years old," Konzem said. "In any situation like that you have to be cognizant of ongoing maintenance and upgrades. We have made substantial upgrades with a fire-sprinkler system and changes in seating. We've also added elevators and restrooms and had the construction of new concession stands.

"We need to upgrade the rest of the restrooms. That clearly needs to be done, along with doing a paint job again on the interior seating bowl. We're coming up on 25 years or so since we've painted the steel seating area."

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