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Restore Pauley - Part III: The Road Behind Us

This is Part III in a periodic series.  Here is Part I and Part II.

We can agree that it's time to renovate Pauley Pavilion.  So, what's going on?  

If you're like me, you have a vague recollection of reading an article every year or so, full of tantalizing promises, yet without any tangible results.   Or, perhaps you've been told something startlingly vague by someone associated with the university.  Either way, it seems like the same old story over and over.

As I mentioned in Part I, the administration is now apparently in the process of hiring an architect.  But, is this real progress, or just the most recent demonstration of faux progress meant to placate the alumni base?  Time will tell.  For a historical perspective, let's review the road behind us.

As of late March 2003, Ben Howland wouldn't be named UCLA's head coach for another week.  But, renovation of Pauley has already a top priority, at least for Ben.  From the LA Times:

[Howland] does believe Pauley Pavilion is in serious need of renovation. The Petersen Event Center, which he proclaims "easily the best on-campus facility in the nation," spoiled him.

"[Wooden] lost two games in Pauley Pavilion. Two games," he said. "It can be a tremendous home court. But [renovation] has got to be done. Even if it means playing a year at the Forum or wherever.

"At our facility, the students surround the court. It was built so they can stand the entire game and not impede the view of the paying public who sits behind them. You want to maintain the ambience and sense of history, but you have to upgrade."

So, the dark days of Lavin were coming to an end.  A new Athletic Director was making bold moves.  A national Coach of the Year was installed in Westwood.  A man who desperately wanted a new facility to help restore UCLA basketball to its former glory.  

Nevertheless, the Pauley renovation effort floundered, as this DB article from April 2003 lamented the lack of private funding:

In light of the recent changes within the athletic department, the lingering question remains: With a new athletic director and a new basketball coach, is Pauley going to follow suit?
According to Administrative Vice Chancellor Peter Blackman, no specific plans are being pursued, but [associate athletic director of business operations Ken] Weiner said that studies have been conducted to examine the feasibility of changing some features of Pauley....

But even these changes have yet to be realized. In fact, visible changes to Pauley are practically non-existent. Why?

In short, the money isn't there.

"There's no firm funding source," said Mick Deluca, director of UCLA Cultural and Recreational Affairs, the department that manages Pauley Pavilion. "It's always been in discussion. I think it's high on the list of campus objectives to update a building approaching 40 years old."

Though UCLA would announce the renaming of the Pauley Pavilion floor a few months later, and despite it being "high" on the list of administration objectives, the "firm funding source" never materialized.

Yet, there was another glimmer of hope in mid-2004:

Change is in the air for Pauley Pavilion, UCLA sources announced recently.

The arena, completed in 1965, has had no major structural changes since its construction. The university has retained local architectural firm Turner Meis to review the building's current capacity for home basketball....

If plans are approved at the end of summer or early fall, the next step would be to find funding from outside sources to begin the project.

In other words, as early as 2004, the administration retained an architect to produce a study.   Yet, I don't remember sitting in a renovated Pauley a couple weeks ago.  So, are you still encouraged by UCLA's recent RFQ for an architect?

The lesson, of course, is that as we look at these things, and hear the latest announcements, its fair to ask whether there has been genuine progress, or if the administration is just going through the motions.  We'll see, as this story continues.

Lots more history after the jump.

By October 2004, momentum seemed to be building, with the OC Register reporting that plans for a title sponsor were in the works:

UCLA will take another step toward the renovation of Pauley Pavilion on Monday in a meeting with design architects, and university officials expect soft cost estimates for the project will be between $50 million-$70 million.

How those funds will be raised has yet to be determined, but Athletic Director Dan Guerrero said the university would consider the prospect of selling corporate naming rights to help fund construction at the storied venue, which has been home to 38 NCAA championship teams since it was opened in 1965. ...

"We're in the program development phase and a little of the design phase," Guerrero said. "We'll see what he comes back with. "

Design phase doesn't sound bad, right?  But, just days later, in what would be part of a recurring pattern, officials were quick to warn that construction was still years away.
Athletic department and university officials at UCLA will continue to evaluate the feasibility of renovating venerable Pauley Pavilion after hearing a preliminary proposal from a local architectural design firm on Monday....

The project, which athletic director Dan Guerrero said is in its most preliminary stages, likely will not enter the construction phase for several years....

"When I became athletic director here, there were certain things that were part of my vision for where I would like to take this department," said Guerrero, who is in his third year at UCLA. "Looking at Pauley was first and foremost among those things."
Fund-raising for the proposed renovations will not begin until a design is in place and an architect has been hired, two decisions that Guerrero said he was nowhere close to making.
"We're committed toward moving forward with this project," Guerrero said.... We all want to continue to be nationally competitive, and we realize the facility is critical to that goal."

And so it goes.  We are told that the project is "first and foremost" in DG's vision, but is still in "its most preliminary stages".  We're assured that the "facility is critical" to being nationally competitive, yet there's no design or architect.  Were we being given forthright information, or the run around?

In the mid-2005 update, UCLA announced that a fundraising strategy for the project was just months away.  Per the Dohn at the Daily News:

UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero said Monday he hoped a fundraising strategy for the renovation of Pauley Pavilion would be in place by the end of 2005, but added no timetable exists to start the project....

``We're hoping to get the scope of the project done by the end of the summer, at which time we would begin to seek an architect to look at design elements, and things of that nature,'' Guerrero said.

Sounds like good news.  We also learned that UCLA was hard at work on hiring a chief fundraiser whose "primary and immediate focus" was to spearhead the fundraising efforts for the renovation of Pauley.  But, even as this was happening, it was apparent that the athletic department's effort was dulled by sticker shock:
A preliminary meeting last October with a design firm did not bode well. Athletic department officials were expecting the range for the project to run from $40 million-$50 million. But the cost estimate for the proposed renovation was such that they were forced to go back and reassess what could and could not be included in the proposed project.

"Based on what was laid out, the bang for the buck really didn't jibe with what we were looking for," said Ken Weiner, associate athletic director for business operations, at the time.

And, thus, whatever momentum had gathered for the project appeared to dissipate as officials bemoaned the lack of funding, insisted the project had "no timeframe," and focused on fundraising, as reflected in this interview of Dan Guerrero from June 2005:
Are there any updates on the Pauley Pavilion renovation?

"The number one priority is hiring a new athletic fund raiser. Because it's all about raising a significant amount of money."

Well, for what its worth DG's priority was accomplished two months later, in August 2005, when UCLA announced the hiring of Ross Bjork as the senior associate athletic director of external relations.  

By December 2005, a couple more seemingly promising reports regarding the project trickled out, and a nice recap of the history was produced, but no real progress was made.

Then, in mid-2006, we hear it again.  Despite Howland's Ben ball warriors making it to the NCAA Championship game, we learned that absolutely nothing tangible had happened for a year:

"Nothing has changed (in the past year)," said Ken Weiner, associate athletic director of business operations and the point man for this phase of the Pauley Pavilion renovation project. "Right now we're in what's known as a 'quiet phase.' That means we're mostly trying to gauge the interest of potential donors."
A quiet phase?  Is that straight shooting or bureaucratic BS?   Sound like the latter and, as several readers have already noted, we seem to be repeatedly given vague, incomplete, and even untrue information by the athletic department.   And the AD has the gall to throw up its hands wondering where all the funding is, when they refuse to even the involve larger Bruin community in the process.

Anyway, the DB article was followed by this well-deserved broadside from our very own Nestor, who aptly observed:

It seems like officials like Weiner are in this "quiet phase" every single year. If you think it seems like every year we hear a lot of PR/mumbo jumbo/hot air from UCLA's athletic department officials about renovating Pauley, you are right.... We hear the same nonsense, same excuses on fundraising every year. And it's not like the athletic department is lacking in terms of staff/personnel when it comes to fundraising....

What is so hard about raising funds to renovate the holy grail of college basketball, which happens to be the home of the greatest program in college hoops? What is so difficult about raising millions through on and offline fundraising from a huge alumni base, which is still euphoric about our run in the NCAA tourney, our recent conference championships, and the incredible job Coach Howland has done in revitalizing the program? For how long we are going to have put up with these excuses?

Great questions.

More recently, in October 2006, Dohn wrote a piece suggesting that, outward appearances aside, some progress has, in fact, been made:

UCLA's project to renovate Pauley Pavilion appears to be gaining little momentum in the spotlight, but behind the scenes a lot of groundwork is complete and progress is being made.

By the end of the calendar year, athletic director Dan Guerrero plans to have a 16- to 20-member campaign committee in place, and a public fund-raising push could get underway by the summer....

The last year has been spent speaking with influential boosters and potential donors. The school wants to secure at least half of the needed funds from a small contingent of people before taking the fund-raising campaign to the general public.

The school has conceptual designs for the renovations, but an architect has not been hired for the project....

Gracious me.  A committee.  Hallelujah.  Okay, I may be jaded, but even though it sounds like something has been happening, it's doesn't appear to be very much.

A couple months later, in early December 2006, we hear from DG himself as quoted from a radio interview he gave Simers and Roggin on AM 570 (courtesy of our friends at Dump Dorrell):

Simers: So one of the questions there is with the Galen Center. When are you going to do something with Pauley Pavilion?

DG: Well we've been in the process of doing things for quite a while now. In fact, we have a select committee of individuals that are out raising money in what's called a "quiet phase" and we're going to continue to raise dollars probably up until the fall and then we'll launch the public phase for the project.

Simers: What is the project? Are you just going to remodel, or are you going gut it?

DG: Yeah, it will be a renovation of the facility. We've done a lot of focus group work and things of that nature with our constituent base, with our fan base. And to demolish Pauley Pavilion is not what most people would like to see. So we're not going to do that. We're going to give it a great facelift and make it look like a new facility, but its still going to be Pauley Pavilion and that's important to many of the folks associated with UCLA.

Fantastic.  A committee and focus groups.  Again, arena renovation at warp speed.

Which brings us to last month, and UCLA's RFQ for an architect issued just before Christmas for "UCLA Pauley Pavilion Renovation and Expansion".

So, here we are, in January 2007.  If I'm counting right, over the last 3 years, we've consulted with an architect, considered granting naming rights, hired a fund raiser, formed a committee, and done focus groups.  I can't for the life of me understand how it took so long to do so little.  But, if DG is to be believed (this time), then we can expect to see a public campaign to renovate Pauley by this fall.

Will that happen?  Based up our recent history, I can't say I'm overly optimistic.

That is, unless the larger Bruin community makes clear to the administration and athletic department how important this project is.  That's were we come in.

Next up:  Part IV: A New Hope?