September 9, 2008
The Orange Palace
Driving past it for the first time, I remember how big the place seemed.
The stands rose up from the ground like they went up a mile. It was awe-inspiring and beautiful.
"How cool would it be to see a football game in that place?" I thought to myself. What a cool stadium.
Okay, so I was around six years old and Lewis Field wasn't really all that back in the mid-1980s, but hey, perceptions are warped when you're that young. Everything seems cool and big.
Even so, that memory still sticks with me. My mother was driving me to see my aunt, who was a student at Oklahoma State at the time. A budding sports fan, getting to see a college football stadium was a big deal to me. Even if it was a stadium with a retro rusted look and a chain link fence around it.
But I guess my warped perceptions were about 24 years too early. That same site is really home to an awe-inspiring and beautiful stadium now.
The metamorphic change from Lewis Field to Boone Pickens Stadium has been nothing short of absolutely amazing. OSU now has a football stadium that goes beyond the wildest dreams of anyone in Orange Country. Is this really the same place?
Yes, yes it is. I realize I've written about BPS a bunch of times on here over the past several years, but documenting and commenting on the progress of the renovation was important. But now that the stadium is done for the common fan, it seems like an appropriate time to touch on the subject again.
Simply put, the Boone Bowl is astonishing. It looks like an NFL venue now, or at least a really nice stadium that hosts a bowl game every season. Now seating 60,000 fans, the place is in line to become a snakepit of sound for opponents. Gallagher-Iba to the east. The west end zone to the, well, west. Fans breathing down your neck on the north and south sides. Claustrophobic much? That's a recipe to get in a team's head.
But to quote my boy LeVar Burton, you don't have to take my word for it.
"What a beautiful stadium," head coach Mike Gundy said. "It's really amazing to me to see all the orange in the west end zone. It was loud in there. Makes us proud as a staff and as a team and especially as a graduate and former player here to see the difference. There were comments from the Houston coaches who had been here before about how mesmerized they were at the difference."
The opening of the west side for the fans created an immediate stir for the players.
"It was awesome," Zac Robinson said. "It was great to see that west end zone packed. Everybody was excited to play in front of the home crowd and it definitely lived up to the expectations."
It was hard to gauge because I was sitting behind glass, but there were moments when you could definitely detect a wall of noise coming straight at you from the new seats. And that new wall of noise made an immediate impact in the game. Ricky Price can't measure the difference from last year, but he knows this much: it was loud.
"It was loud and I love playing in loud stadiums," Price said. "You might as well call OSU the new big house, because it was amazing. I didn't think it was going to get that packed. It surprised me."
Same here. The supposed "attendance" surprised me too. Only 45,001? Someone with a bad math background had to come up with that, right? The old capacity for last year was 44,700. So the school wants us to believe the attendance from the Houston game was 301 over capacity from last year? Without a new, sterling, 16,000-seat section at your disposal.
Ummm, okay. Talk about a great chance to pump things up for a PR/marketing blitz. Everyone in my part of the press box figured it was between 48,000-52,000. But if the attendance was reported at 54,356 I don't think anyone would have called OSU on it. (I myself figured about 50k-something.)
Anyway, I'm getting off point here. The transformation of a dilapidated stadium to football palace is all but complete. No longer is the Cowboys' home corral an eyesore. It's now a source of pride for the fans, team and especially an alumni coach.
"I'm really proud of what Oklahoma State has done and what Mr. (Boone) Pickens has started with this stadium," Gundy said. "The players felt comfortable and they really appreciated the orange."
This place is no longer a drag on the program. Even when OSU had successful seasons, the reply was something along the lines of: "Yeah, well, but you have to watch it in that dump." Not anymore. And that will only help attract more fans and better recruits to the place.
And current six-year-olds actually have a structure to look up at in awe.
Justin Wilmeth is the editor of OStateIllustrated.com. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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