September 30, 2008

New stadium layout amping up noise

Only three games have been played in the expanded Boone Pickens Stadium so far this season, but it's already evident that things have changed in a big way.

Notably, all those seats in the West End Zone. Not only did that new area of seating help to set a new attendance record this past weekend, it's also helping to turn the noise level from the fans all the way to 11.

In the past, the old stadium had some noisy games. Bedlam in 2004 had some ear-piercing moments, to be sure. The design of the stadium already had fans on top of the field on the north and south sides. But now, that's the case in three directions, with the west wall of Gallagher-Iba Arena bottling it all in. And while the noise factor of GIA is known all across the nation, could the football stadium next door be vying for a similar reputation?

"I think every week it gets louder and louder," Brady Bond said. "Obviously, we set a record (on Saturday). You can tell people are coming out to see us. You can tell on a couple third downs there for the defense, they got pretty loud. It's really fun."

The consensus amongst Oklahoma State players is that the new wall of orange on the west side is really amping up the psyche of the team. The stadium is fuller than ever before and that's really helping to pump up the Cowboys when they get on the field.

"You just see a whole lot more people," Keith Toston said. "To me, that's really the biggest thing. When we get a chance to run out that tunnel, we're so used to seeing nothing but dirt and a screen back on that side of the field, so it's pretty big to just get a chance to see a lot of fans on that end as well."

DeMarcus Conner says BPS is now louder than it has ever been before.

"When you come out, it just gets you excited to go out there and play a football game and see people on the other side instead of just seeing straight through and seeing nobody there, or see a couple of people there or a bunch of dirt," Conner said. "So when you come out of the tunnel, you see all those people right there cheering for you. And when we go down there and kneel like we usually do before the game and say our little prayer, it's good to see all those people down there cheering for you."

"I thought it was Homecoming at The Walk because there were so many people out there," Andre Sexton said. "Coach was telling us that if we keep winning, they will keep coming out more. It was real nice to have that fan support. I think it motivated us to play better and get the big win."

For years, OSU has struggled with getting fans to the stadium. Some of the best teams in school history have played before crowds that weren't sellouts. And while the last game was about 8,000 short of a sellout in the new configuration, the 51,416 is better than anything before in the history of the program.

"It was nice to get out there in front of that crowd," head coach Mike Gundy said. It's great that it was a record. I really appreciate the students. I noticed there were a lot of them over there. Students are the key for us so we need to get students to come to every home game and we'll have 60,000. I'm excited about that. I thought it was very loud and that the fan support was tremendous. I know our players talked about it in the locker room after the game. They thought it was loud and orange and a great environment. The challenge now, to the students and the fans, is to break the record next week."

The next game at the Booneyard is Saturday night against Texas A&M. The Aggies will stagger into Orange Country as 20-something-point underdogs. Will the new setup in the stadium play a part in distracting and frustrating the Aggies?

"I have no doubt about it," Shane Jarka said. "Being as loud as it is, it has to have some effect on the other team. And it has to be somewhat scary to them. I don't know if that's the right word. It's probably not scary, but it's got to affect them in ways that it's never affected them before here."

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