This week, the athletics department and UCLA as a whole has made a very big deal about the groundbreaking at Pauley Pavilion, as they should. A project of this magnitude and importance deserves the treatment it has been getting and especially when you take into account that they are still looking for more private donations to get to that magical $100 million mark.
While I have not hid my dislike for the renovation project, my biggest issue is with the way the entire project has been handled. The athletic department has taken the "don't worry, what we're doing is the right way to go about it because we say so" approach. No information on the process, other options investigated or justification for why they are doing what they are doing has been provided. If you're not willing to get behind the project just because the athletic department says so, it's tough to be excited about it.
At yesterday's groundbreaking, the media was given the opportunity to speak to the various people involved in the project. Jon Gold got in a few minutes with DG and finally asked the question that so many of us have been desperate for an answer to. Unfortunately, DG didn't both answering it.
Why the decision to renovate rather than tear down and rebuild?
Dan Guerrero: "One of the driving forces to do what we're doing is because after an analysis of the building, we came to realize that the infrastructure - the mechanical engineering, the plumbing - had outlived its useful life. We brought in two independent estimators to evaluate the situation and give us a cost for replacing those two things. The cost at that time was somewhere between $50-$60 million; there isn't an athletic director in America who can go out and raise $60 million for pipes. So it really pushed the envelope in terms of our need to really assess and evaluate and move forward with a project - whether it was building a new project or a renovation, we knew we had to move forward."
So that's what we get? I'm pretty sure DG was asked a question and instead of answering it, he told a story. This is the type of thing that infuriates me and many others about the project. DG is asked a legitimate question and one that anyone being asked to donate money or involved with the university in any way deserves an answer to. Instead we get a story?
For Gold's part, he didn't do much better than DG. He does get credit for finally asking the question that so many of us want an answer to, but when DG completely evades the question, can't Gold ask again? This isn't a matter of blogs "not getting the job of the MSM" because we've seen the MSM come back to others before when a question is evaded.
Remember, this comes on the heels of DG's "Q&A," where he asked himself questions and answered them with very little that would qualify as insightful. At some point I, and I believe others as well, will stop looking for answers to justify the project and call it an outright failure. You can only wait around on answers for so long and we have been waiting on answers for quite some time now.
My frustration on this topic is starting to boil over. I've seen and read everything that has been released and my impression is that this is a second-rate project for first-rate money, which is a shame. That said, I don't have all of the answers that I think are necessary to make a fair judgment. It would be fantastic if DG sat down with fans, had a real Q&A with fans or had a discussion with a media member that really has an idea on the pulse of UCLA athletics and actually answered the questions asked to him. It would allow people to really understand what is going on and if the committee really did all their research and really did go with the best option possible, we would see that.
There one real shames in the way that this has been handled. The athletic department still needs nearly $40 million in donations to reach their goal on private contributions. When you cannot adequately fill the fans, who you would like to donate, in on what is going on, you're going to have trouble getting those donations. This project has not been sold in the best way possible.
I'm not ready to give up on this project just yet. It's possible that they did all the necessary research and what they're going through with truly is the best thing for the basketball program, gymnastics, volleyball, students and UCLA as a whole. I will not believe that just because the athletic department says so, though. Show me that it's the best possible option out there and I'll hop on board. The athletic department is running out of time though because I won't wait around forever on answers. Unfortunately, the impression I am getting is that I am far from the only person who feels that way.