OU women's gymnastics: Sooners hoping new setup keeps the crowds growing
NORMAN — Jordan Draper still gets chills when she thinks about the Sooners’ women’s gymnastics team’s meet against UCLA last season.
“It was electric in there,” the junior said of the record crowd of 10,177 for the top-ranked Sooners’ win over the No. 2 Bruins last March at Lloyd Noble Center.
For most every meet since K.J. Kindler arrived as OU’s coach in 2006, a large curtain has run along the west side of the arena, eliminating a large portion of the seats from being able to be used.
For that meet last season, the curtain came down.
The Sooners will debut a new look for meets Monday when Oklahoma, once again ranked No. 1, takes on Arkansas in OU’s home opener beginning at 1:15 p.m.
There will still be a curtain hanging in front of the tunnel on the south end of the arena but fans will have many more close seats available.
“We saw what we were capable of doing against UCLA, and we decided that we needed to set the bar higher for ourselves, for our marketing department and for the gymnastics team,” Kindler said. “We want to fill those seats. That is the kind of atmosphere we want to have and the only way to have it is to plan for it.
“If you keep planning for small crowds, you keep getting one, I guess.”
Among the efforts made at boosting the crowd was a revamped setup.
That included not only the removal of the large curtain but a reorientation of the layout.
The vault lane, which ran right in front of the curtain, will not not only feature fans just a few feet away but will also end right in front of the student section.
“I think it’s going to be really cool to see the crowd getting really into it and I think the girls vaulting as well, they’re going to feed off the crowd.”
The only other layout change since Kindler’s arrival was a minor one — the orientation of the beam was adjusted to account for new lighting about a decade ago.
This change is much more dramatic.
“It’ll be a lot more interactive for the fans,” junior Carly Woodard said. “I think they’ll be able to see more angles and more views.”
The first 500 fans will receive replica national championship rings and the first 250 students will receive a national championship shirt.
“We’re hoping that with a lot of kiddos out of school, a lot of parents off of work, that they’re looking for something super fun to do, something memorable instead of hanging around the house all day,” Kindler said. “We’re really hoping they’ll come out and check us out.”
Arkansas at No. 1 Oklahoma
When: 1:15 p.m., Monday
Where: Lloyd Noble Center, Norman
TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma (Cox 37)