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A Year Lost in Pauley Restoration

So, we have another game against the gap-closing losers from across town.  And just about all that anyone can point to in support of the purported "rivalry" is that USC has managed to get themselves a new building.

So, I suppose it's about time that we'd get an update on Pauley.

Last year at about this time, I wrote a series of posts because I was frustrated at the ridiculously slow pace of the effort to restore Pauley.  Shortly thereafter, as coincidence would have it, there was a burst of activity coming from the Morgan Center.  A respected architect was hired, meetings were held, donors were surveyed, ideas for improvements were discussed, and a firm timeline was released- with the new building's opening set to coincide with Coach's 100th birthday.  And, as progress seemed to be being made, and events on the field took our attention, time has passed.

Well, it's been nearly a year.  And Dohn has an update on where things stand.  He doesn't come out and say this, but since last February the wheels have fallen off the wagon.

Let's start with a recap of where we are:

UCLA's project, which is more than five years in the works, has gone about as smoothly as downing a tablespoon full of chunky peanut butter ... without a drink.

There were feasibility studies, changes in fundraising personnel, vastly overpriced architectural drawings, on-campus opposition and differences of opinions as the original cost of the project has nearly tripled.

UCLA has less than $15 million in donations committed in writing, sources said, and even by guidelines announced by athletic director Dan Guerrero a year ago, the project is already a year behind schedule.

That's right.  It's been a year.  And we are now a year behind schedule.  That, my friends, means that absolutely nothing of substance has been accomplished since this time last year.  Besides some announcements, and a bit of fundraising, the last twelve months have gotten us nowhere.

Why, you ask?  Well, for one, UCLA couldn't play nice with its architect, the well-regarded HOK Sport:

After announcing 12 months ago a desire to re-open a renovated Pauley Pavilion in time for the 2010-11 season, sources said the target date for the completion of the proposed renovation is the 2011-12 season.

The latest obstacle in the renovation of the 43-year-old year building is the drawings by HOK Sport. UCLA spent $500,000 to have Kansas City-based HOK complete comprehensive drawings of a possible renovation, which included moving the seats closer to the court, along with building a practice basketball court and new locker rooms and improving fan amenities, widening the concourses and installing a media workroom.

"The key elements we originally wanted from the outset are still alive and in play," Guerrero said. "How we actually incorporate them into our renovation is still yet to be determined, and that's what the new architect will look at."

UCLA needs a new architect because of sticker shock. The school told HOK it would spent approximately $100 million in the renovation, but HOK returned conceptual drawings with a $200 million price tag.

I don't know exactly how this happens.  Obviously, there were some communication problems between UCLA and HOK for the bid to come in $100 million over budget.  Either UCLA was asking for more than it could reasonably expect, or HOK, as architects are apt to do, was pumping things up.  However it happened, it's pretty inexcusable.  Cost overruns are common in construction, but you should be able to at least get the plans in somewhere near the ball park.  In UCLA's defense, if they really did ask for drawings for a $100 million renovation, and got $200 million plans, there were right to be annoyed.

So, presumably, UCLA was able to work things out with HOK and keep the project moving, right?  Or maybe not:

So UCLA severed ties with HOK and went looking for another architect in the fall. By the second week of February, the school plans on making a decision on a new firm, which should pave the way for new drawings.

"Once we get this architect on board," Guerrero said, "it can really move forward."

Again, I don't mind so much that UCLA fired HOK.  I'm disappointed, because HOK has done some impressive work.  But, 100% over budget is 100% over budget.

But why has it taken months and months to find a replacement firm?  As Dohn points out, the plans are key to fundraising:

At that point, Ross Bjork, UCLA's senior associate athletic director and chief fundraiser, should finally be able to get to the nitty-gritty of a job he was hired for in August 2005. So far, during what UCLA is terming its "quiet phase" of raising funds, Bjork is being asked to sell UCLA's vision of Pauley Pavilion without potential donors being able to use their vision to see anything.
So, where are we now?  As it stands, the fundraising seems to be doing okay, with $13 million in signed pledges and verbal commitments of an additional $40 million, but the delay until 2011-12 represents yet another in what has literally been decades of delays and false promises:
Discussing the renovation last January, Guerrero said, "we anticipate launching the public phase in the fall." That phase, according to sources, has been pushed back until fall 2008.

It is also the latest change in plans, but not the first. In discussing the financial aspect of renovating Pauley Pavilion in August 2003, UCLA senior associate director of business operations Ken Weiner said "if we do it all, it may be $40 million." UCLA is now looking at a much more expansive, and expensive, renovation with a price tag close to $120 million.

In May 2005, Guerrero said UCLA should begin "to develop a funding strategy" and begin a fundraising campaign "in the latter part of this year."

The take aways here are a couple things.  To begin with, you just can't be complacent about something like this.  Even with the success of Ben Ball, I am convinced that we'll never see a Pauley renovation without the constant support and prodding of the fan base.  Once again, we have a clear demonstration of what happens during "quiet phases" if noone's watching.  So, we have to keep on this.

On the positive side to the ledger, I'm at least pleased to see that UCLA is starting to come to grips with the cost of a genuine renovation of Pauley.  I'd be the first to support a $200 million project, assuming we got value for that, but it's still nice to see that UCLA is prepared to spend $120 on a "much more expansive, and expensive, renovation."  Indeed, my biggest fear, aside from the project never getting off the ground, is that we'd have a "renovation" like we saw at the Rose Bowl a few years ago.  Yes, some new ill-fitting seats and a few gallons of paint won't do.  It certainly wouldn't respect the unmatched tradition of UCLA basketball and the history of Pauley Pavilion.

One more interesting note.  There has been some speculation as to where UCLA would play during the construction phase of the project- assuming that ever happens.  We'll, it looks like the Forum is the favorite:

And once the plan does go public and a timetable is established for the renovation, plans for the teams that play in Pauley Pavilion must be set. ...

The men's basketball team will play at the Forum, Staples Center or Honda Center in Anaheim. However, during preliminary discussions with Faith Central Baptist Church, which owns the Forum, UCLA was told it could have whatever dates it wanted, and is the leading candidate, sources said.

There is also a desire to play at least one weekend of Pacific-10 Conference basketball games at the Honda Center, which is owned by UCLA graduate Henry Samueli, who also owns the NHL's Anaheim Ducks.

I can't say I'm that excited about the Forum.  It would be our version of the Sports Arena for a year.  Clearly, Staples or the Honda Center would provide better facilities, though I understand that the location of at least Honda isn't ideal.

I'm sure Nestor will have a game day thread up soon.  For today, at least, the building won't matter much, so long as our warriors come out focused.  After that, we can get back to the business of restoring Pauley.