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Pauley Renovation: I'll Believe It When I See It And Not A Moment Sooner

The Daily Bruin published a story yesterday about the Pauley Pavilion renovation.

If I were going to be sarcastic, I'd make a joke about how the whole project is euphemistically called the Pauley Pavilion Renovation -- as if it were a real and tangible thing, like it is going to happen some time soon.

Hang on, let's look at some of what the story says, just so we're all on the same page:

When UCLA first began to plan its Pauley Pavilion renovation project, Edwin Pauley’s heirs were among the first individuals contacted.

The building was dedicated to Edwin Pauley when it opened in 1965, in honor of his service as a UC regent and philanthropist and his donation to fund the building’s original construction.

Athletic Director Dan Guerrero sat down with the Pauley family to discuss the possibility of changing the historic venue’s name and selling the rights to a corporate sponsor.

The Pauley family understood the possible need for a name change and offered the very first donation to the project. Guerrero said the donation was unsolicited.

Okay ... and:

UCLA initially announced the project Jan. 11, 2007, when it hoped to have construction completed by legendary basketball coach John Wooden’s 100th birthday, Oct. 14, 2010. Since that announcement, the project has moved slowly, as UCLA has sought to raise funds for the project.

While a 2012 completion date is now most likely, the pace of the planning stages should pick up considerably this summer when the school receives design plans from NBBJ, an architecture firm it hired Feb. 7. Those plans will provide an exact definition of the scope and magnitude for the renovation.

The plans are a preliminary aspect of the overall project, but they will still be a significant step in the timeline Guerrero has laid out for the project’s completion. He said the school plans to begin construction “in the early part of 2010.”

Among the concerns that NBBJ will address in its plans are concessions, a new entrance, fan circulation and seismic regulations.

But for many involved, those tweaks to the arena are not as centrally as important as the history behind Pauley, and its emblematic status on campus. The 43-year-old facility has housed 38 national championship teams and Wooden’s dynasty. The school’s hope to preserve and bolster that legacy is at the fore of the talks to improve the arena.

“Pauley represents John Wooden in many ways, who represents the best in all of us,” Chancellor Gene Block said in an interview with the Daily Bruin in May. “It’s an icon on campus.”

There's more, of course, I encourage you to read the whole story, but now you get the gist.

Let me make a couple of point.

The first set of block quotes represent a good sign, a small sign, but a good sign.

This is because there is no way to do this project "right" without basically re-doing the building and there is no way to re-do the building without corporate money and there is no way to get corporate money without letting the corporation hang a big sign on the outside with their name on it.

And that sign is almost certainly going to be bigger than the sign that says "Pauley."

Traditionalists were and are a stumbling block here. They -- whoever they are -- don't want to mess with tradition and don't want UCLA to play its basketball games in anything not called "Pauley Pavilion" or something close. I don't have a link, but if memory serves, you can count Coach John Wooden among this group, I believe he once said he would have nothing to do with a new building if it wasn't Pauley Pavilion. Wooden, of course, was a great coach, but his favorite musical act was the Mills Brothers -- as much as we love him, we can't let him have too much say over the aesthetics of our new basketball environment.

But Coach Wooden aside, I don't think the traditionalists should have too much say on this project. If you are going to do this, do it right, raise the money and build a state of the art arena and call it whatever you have to call it. I tip my hat -- heck, I bow down -- to the generosity of the Pauley family. But mostly I admire the fact that even they see the light and realize that a change in the name might be what it takes to build a new gym.

As for the rest, I call bullshit on the 2012 completion date.

Just look at the history of the major construction projects on campus. For the record, they still haven't moved completely into the new hospital. I don't have the dates in front of me, but they are years late on completing that project.

As for Pauley, there is no funding in place yet. There are no plans. They haven't broken ground.

And we're talking about the government here.

But you know what really scares me:

The best cast scenario is that Ben Howland won't coach in the new gym until like Year Nine or Year Ten of his tenure. Before Howland even moved here from Pittsburgh, he expressed the necessity of a new building. I bet he never thought he'd have to wait a decade.

What if there are delays? (That might be the funniest thing I've ever written -- it's not a matter of What? ... we all know it's really a question of "How many delays ... ) What if he gets tired of waiting. What if one season away from home becomes two?

Look, I don't know the enormity and scope of doing a project like this. I know it takes time. I know it isn't easy. I know the project relies on the money of people who aren't me. So, I'm mindful of not being too critical.

But I do have to say: I don't believe anything I read or anything anyone says about the Pauley Pavilion renovation. I won't believe anything until I see it with my own eyes.