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Randy Laffoon
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Tracie Gray

Thursday
Jul102014

July 2014 - Issue 10, Volume 13

Wednesday
Jun252014

July 2014: Some Picks and Suggestions

It’s no secret that Norman houses a pretty robust and exciting music scene. Package that with a few shows in nearby South OKC venues and you’ve got a summer to look forward to.  After sifting through the shows coming to Norman and South OKC this July, I have come up with a few picks I would recommend seeing while they’re in town.

The Donkeys - The Opolis, Saturday, July 5.  Yes, the name may sound slightly off-putting, but the group behind it is anything but. The Donkeys boast a southern rock sound with a modern twist.  I know what you are thinking; southern rock can sometimes be a bore with its usual twenty-minute guitar solos and jam-style concerts.  However, this is where The Donkeys are different.  They blend together a southern style with a chiller vibe.  Think about mixing The Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan with just a hint of Mumford and Sons.  This is a band I would seriously recommend if you are in town on the fifth.  However the show is age restricted, as The Opolis is a 21+ venue.

Everyone Is Dirty - The Red Brick Bar, July 7.  Another questionable name, yes I know, I apologize.  However, this band brings a nice sound to The Red Brick Bar.  Compared to the other picks of mine, this group is the least known, but don’t let that change your mind.  Everyone is Dirty brings a bit of grunge to the stage.  Reminiscent of a little Nirvana, Everyone is Dirty has a slow, almost melancholy sound that they accomplish with a myriad of tools.  The band features a front woman who doubles as a violinist.  Her vocals are smooth and attractive with a hint of punk that pairs perfectly with her strings.  This band is one that I would watch for in the future as their eclectic sound and style are sure to catch fire soon.  Once again this is not a show for the kiddies, but the adults will have a great time remembering the late 90s grunge feel brought to the modern day.

Saintseneca - The Opolis, July 17. To feed the indie in all of us, The Opolis also has another really good show lined up for the 17th.  Saintseneca is one of my personal favorites, and should be yours as well.  Saintseneca is an indie-folk group from Ohio.  Saintseneca has a modern sound while sticking to its acoustic-folk roots.  Imagine this group as a fusion between Neutral Milk Hotel and Crosby, Stills and Nash (as hard as that is).  As popular as indie-folk is today, this band has definitely started to gain traction, garnering an impressive amount of “plays” on Spotify. It’s always nice to get a new sound on the scene and I think Saintseneca will do this well. Missing out on this band would be an opportunity wasted as bringing bands like this to Norman is an excellent treat. I guarantee that you will walk away from the show craving more.

The month of July for the Norman music scene is jam packed with great acts across the board, these are just a couple of my favorites for the month.  However, if you want to check your other options, normanmusicscene.com is a great way to keep up with what’s happening in the area.  Remember, you don’t have to make the drive far for great live music.  

Monday
Jun232014

OU Football Stadium Expansion

News broke earlier this May that Dean Blevins confirmed that a new project for the expansion of the Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium was in the works and would be approved and announced at a future Board of Regents meeting.

Plans were projected to be anywhere between $350-400 million. The project would see an expansion of the seating on the south end of the stadium, as well as upgrades to the training facilities and weight room and updated suites and press box.  The project is rumored to begin after the last home game against OSU on Dec. 6, 2014, with the grand opening hopefully taking place in time for the home opener against Akron the year following.  The bowl being created in the south end zone should create anywhere from 8,000-10,000 more seats, and with the waiting list for season tickets growing each year, the OU Athletic Department is sure to fill every single one up.

I was able to get an insider view into the Populous architectural renderings for the Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium expansion project. Populous is responsible for such sports venues as Sun Life Stadium for the Miami Dolphins in 1987, which was the first venue to feature club seating, and Oriole Park at Camden Yards, which won the American Institute of Architects National Honor Awards for both urban design and architecture, just to name a couple. Their work is tremendous, and their list of achievements is honestly too long for this article.

I received a packet from a trusted source who had access to the stadium expansion project. That packet contained four proposed exteriors for the south end expansion of the stadium. In each, the bowl on the south end is closed up, and an entrance to the stadium has been added that spills out into an oval driveway that connects to Lindsey Street. The new entrance and roundabout, let’s call it, effectively eats up some of the practice field located on the corner of Jenkins and Lindsey, but all of the architectural renderings feature two practice fields running north and south to the west of the new south entrance.

The bowl addition looks to be the same height as the north end, with the current south end zone section remaining essentially the same, rising up above the entrance. The four proposals were broken up into two basic groups: two renderings featuring water fountains in the south entrance, along with extensive brick and rock features, and two renderings without fountains, featuring exteriors made up mostly of windows.

The proposal that my source described as having the most potential to pass the upcoming vote featured the roundabout coming off of Lindsey Street, just before Jenkins, that winds in a circle around a massive water fountain out front. On both sides of the south entrance, trees line the sidewalks as a natural barrier to the practice fields on the left, and the green space on the right. Moving north from the fountain is an outdoor entranceway much like the north entrance, with a big concrete gathering area, featuring another smaller water feature. The entrance itself is similar to the stone and brickwork currently on the stadium, and features large glass windows and doors. The bowl sections to the left and right appear to feature suites with large panes of glass and contain a similar amount of seating as the north end zone.

OU boasts one of the best home crowds in all of college football, and diehards are looking for ways to get season tickets. If this Populous deal goes through, they just might get their shot. Consider adding your name to the waiting list before the announcement becomes official!

Thursday
Jun192014

Sooner Bowling Center Celebrates Thirtieth Anniversary

Need something fun to do this summer? Be sure to check out the Sooner Bowling Center and all their fun promotions and activities that are running throughout the summer. First up is the Sooner Bowling Center's 30th anniversary, a fun celebration in order to promote the widespread activities that the Sooner Bowling Center has enriched Norman with for thirty years. The bowling fun continues throughout the summer with promotions, multiple bowling leagues for all ages and extended summer hours.

The Sooner Bowling Center Celebrates its 30th anniversary on Friday, July 7 with games, food, fun and lots of entertainment. The theme is 30. There will be 30 cent games from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., along with a snow cone stand, birthday cake and much more to celebrate this historic date. Fun outdoor activities such as a moon jump and games can entertain the younger children and there is an arcade along with bowling raffles and rewards for all ages inside. All 24 lanes will be open and the inside decorated for this celebration. Other activities include pool tables, a snack bar and a pro shop that provides specialized bowling equipment.

Twenty-four lanes of fun are waiting just off 24th Avenue, north of Main Street. Starting June 1, the Sooner Bowling Center is open from 9 a.m. to midnight during the week day and the extended summer hours are just a small part of all the summer specials. Not a good bowler? No problem.  One of the best ways to become an excellent bowler and take advantage of The Sooner Bowling Center's summer specials is to join the Summer Bowling Basics Program.  "With the four week Summer Bowling Basics Program, people who just like bowling can learn how to be more competitive and learn to love the sport," said Kimmberly Johnson, youth director.

The Basic Bowling Program provides coaches to help bowlers learn how to aim with accuracy and precision.  The program’s main goal is to help bowlers feel comfortable enough to join a league on a future date.

"Anyone can join a league because like any other sport bowling takes practice and one can learn more and more about the sport every game,” said Johnson.

A fun way to spend more time at the Sooner Bowling Center is to join a league. There are league games almost every night and the Sooner Bowling Center encourages all ages to come out and enjoy the sport. By taking advantage of the summer special prices you can learn how to play and gain bowling experience and friendship through the many leagues. Leagues are good for both beginners and experienced players. Beginners can receive handicaps to help make the games more exciting and experienced bowlers can practice and show off with their friends. There are leagues for all ages.  Seniors, adults, youth, shot challenges and teams of three are just a few of the leagues the Sooner Bowling Center offers. “Nine pin no tap,” an employee favorite, is a popular league that plays on Thursday evenings. “Nine pin no tap” is exactly like regular bowling, except you get a strike if you hit nine pins with two balls. This is a fun way to encourage bowlers and give them confidence as they watch their scores get higher and higher.

Have a free night or just want something fun to do with friends and family? Attend the thirtieth anniversary party at the Sooner Bowling Center for summer fun, food and tons of entertainment. 

Monday
Jun162014

StART Norman

For a few glorious weeks in April and May, StART Norman, an experiment using the arts to reintegrate the populace into the community, transformed Main Street between Webster and Santa Fe Avenues.

StART Norman turned Main Street into a vibrant, engaging community for citizens and artists alike. The south side was filled with food, art and fun.  Vendors sold ice cream and artwork, and there were music and games in the yard at the corner of Main and Santa Fe. The north side included a cycle track, bike parking and outdoor seating. More importantly, the old lumberyard at the corner of Main and Webster was renovated and retooled as an artists’ studio where spontaneous works of art were created.

The arts were represented exceptionally well at StART Norman. Art exhibits and performances included an oompah band, the Norman singers, sidewalk chalk art, poetry reading, Namron Players Theatre, the Norman Public Library, live painting, film screenings, writing workshops, woodworking projects, open mics, the Sketchbook Project and the Songwriters Association of Norman.

One example of the artisans who participated in StART Norman is Bob Mansfield. Mansfield was the accordionist for the oompah band that played April 12.  His bigger contribution, though, was a demonstration concert on the accordion, covering the instrument from its invention in the mid-1800s forward.  The concert was about an hour and fifteen minutes long and featured accordion music by the decade.

“We had eleven different instruments in the concert, accordions as well as squeezeboxes,” Mansfield said. While the concert was personally satisfying, Mansfield did say he wished StART Norman had been better attended.

Despite lower-than-anticipated attendance, existing businesses, like Sweet Basil, Elusive and the Bead Shop, benefitted from the uptick of people and commerce in the area, as did several “pop-up shops” from merchants like Eat At Local, Das Boot Camp and Mariposa Coffee Roastery. Furthermore, many of the artisans exhibiting at StART Norman were able to introduce themselves and their work to a broader cross-section of the community. Perhaps most encouraging, the next generation was introduced to the arts through a variety of family art activities during StART Norman, including an aluminum foil sculpture activity that is still featured on StART Norman’s Twitter feed (@STARTnorman).

StART Norman was conceived as a fusion of two national model projects: Better Block and No Longer Empty.  Better Block started in Dallas, Texas, in April 2010. Over a two-day period a “blighted block” was restored, empty storefronts were once again filled with businesses and residents were able to enjoy outdoor spaces and a heightened quality of life. No Longer Empty employs an “interim-use model” that locates art exhibits in empty or abandoned buildings in a community. Curators work with recognized artists, emerging artists and the hosting community itself to establish the curatorial theme of the art exhibit.

While it is unclear whether or not StART Norman will be held again next year, many of this year’s participants would like to see it return. And they would like to see even more of the Norman community come out to join in the festivities. For more information on StART Norman, contact the Norman Arts Council at (405) 360-1162.