Google Earth to offer look inside Allen Fieldhouse

A Kansas University graduate plans to introduce the planet to the haunting and hallowed interior of the world’s great basketball arena, just in time for the nation’s biggest weekend for college hoops.

Next week, Google Earth will open the doors on its virtual Allen Fieldhouse, a 3D digital model detailing everything from the paint on James Naismith Court to the catwalks above and every seating section, scoreboard and championship banner in between.

All as Brian McClendon looks forward to watching his Kansas Jayhawks take the Reliant Stadium court in real life.

“We’ll have that on there if and when they make it to the Final Four,” said McClendon, co-founder of Google Earth and now vice president for Google Earth, Google Maps, engineering and product, who grew up in Lawrence.


“It’s when,” he corrected.

McClendon and his team of software engineers and other technical professionals have been busy updating and upgrading Google Earth and its varied applications. Beginning this afternoon, in fact, users of Google Earth and Google Maps will be able see updated and improved imagery for Lawrence and other communities, including Manhattan in Kansas and Tokyo, Sydney and others worldwide.

Such upgrades haven’t yet covered the entire planet, but they’re working on it.

“Columbia (Missouri) is not updated, as far as I know,” McClendon said with a bit of a laugh. “It still looks rather old.”

Also being added to Google Earth are a growing number of digital models, to give 3D perspective to structures that otherwise would appear like a “scraped” or “pancake Earth,” McClendon said.

The 3D fieldhouse model goes live today. Just enter Google Earth, turn on the 3D layer and then “fly down and search for Allen Fieldhouse,” he said.

That McClendon dispatched a photographer and a “very experienced 3D modeler” to handle the fieldhouse job should come as no surprise. As a student at West Junior High School, he and friend Steve Dinneen each had “10 games for $10” ticket packages to attend KU home games. The streak continued through Lawrence High, where he graduated in 1982, and the pace picked up while earning his electrical engineering degree at KU.

He’s looking forward to updating the as-yet-unfinished fieldhouse interior soon after April 4, when the NCAA champion is determined in Houston.

“We like to model reality,” said McClendon, whose Google Earth team is using nearly 200 photos taken of the fieldhouse interior by Dinneen. “Our goal is to match the real world as closely as possible. …

“If they win, we’ll certainly put a 2011 banner inside the fieldhouse.”