My take on Freedom Hall will not be as elegant or well worded as 95% of the others you will read over the next few days , but I'll try anyway. I grew up born and raised a UofL fan. The cake at my baby shower before I was born had written on it "The Future #1 Cardinals Fan" and I like to think I'm up there in my unwavering support for all the teams, past and present with many of you all. I, unlike many of you, have not been to a great number of UofL basketball games. My family never had season tickets, but would try to get tickets to at least one game a year. On top of that, I would attend games with friends, sometimes sitting only a few rows from the court, sometimes sitting with my head resting on the wall. No matter where I sat, the experience was always pretty much the same. Loud, passionate fans cheering on their team no matter who they were playing or what our chances of winning it all that year were. I've been to games against old Conference USA rivals (UAB, Marquette, Cincy) and new Big East Rivals (Pitt, UConn). I've seen us beat up on the little teams and I've seen us get beat up.
I was not at the actual games much and watched a lot of them on TV, so those few chances to go were always special. I remember the ramps, the concourse, and obviously, the smell (every time I smell that caramel smell I think Cardinal basketball). I also remember sitting all over the place in that arena and never ever having a bad seat. I always got goosebumbs when it got so loud you could feel it shake and the other team would make a mistake and somehow it got louder. I loved the knowledge of the UofL fan base who would get just as pumped up about our defense forcing a shot clock violation as they would a clutch 3 pointer or an Alvin Simms dunk.
When it came time for me to pick a college to attend, I went to University of Kentucky to study architecture (unfortunately not a degree UofL offers). Many of my friends who were also UofL fans and attended UK gradually became less fans of UofL and more fans of UK. I however, found my allegiance strengthened. I was that kid who always wore a UofL shirt or hat around campus. I would get in mostly friendly argument at parties, but did have to avoid a few fights in the process. I also made an effort every year to attend a UofL game in Freedom Hall. One of these trips was my fondest memory of Freedom Hall. (I did however get to see them put in the floor at freedom Hall at a young age, which mesmerized me. Amazing how an empty warehouse type building can transform into my personal Mecca with a forklift, a few workers and a bunch of squares of wood.) I was able to attend the white out game against UConn. I know sometimes the white outs/blackouts/ whatever-outs can be cheesy at times, but to see the entire arena in white (including Coach Pitino), was amazing for a fan like me, exiled in the heart of our rival for 5 years. To see players like Padgette, TWill, Palacios, Sosa, McGee, Smith, Jenkins battle Adrien, AJ Price, Thabeet, Dyson, etc with 20,000 fans pushing them was amazing and something I'll always remember.
I have since moved to Pittsburgh and still try to see at least one UofL game in person every year. I unfortunately was not able to make it to Freedom Hall this year (I can still make it if anyone wants to donate a couple tickets to the game??). I will have fond memories always, but I do look forward to carrying over old traditions and starting new traditions at the new arena. Many places it's those that occupy a building that give it its identity, but as an architect, you recognize sometimes the building should help shape the people inside, and that's true with Freedom Hall.