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Pauley Pavilion Renovation: First Class Money, But Will It Be a First Class Arena?

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

The project to raise $100 million for the Pauley Pavilion renovation is called The Campaign of Champions. Well, I was under the impression that a champion was the best of the best so I hope the champions that the campaign is referring to are those on the executive committee because based on what the Morgan Center has released thus far, the Pauley Pavilion renovation is not the best of the best. I was there yesterday and I’ve heard just about everything available on the project as well as a few other things and again, I’m unimpressed.

The 200 and 300 levels are no closer. It says there’s a new film room. Well, that’s nice, but five teams use Pauley so either some teams are left out of there’s going to be a fight for film room time. There are no suites anywhere in the arena so the renovation doesn’t maximize revenue needed to fund the other sports. The added space for locker rooms/sports medicine/film rooms/weight room will be less than half the size of the pavilion at Galen Center which holds the same rooms in addition to a practice court that seats 1,000 and has three sections that can hold nine volleyball courts or four basketball courts. I’m sorry, but for all the faults of Galen Center and the fact that I’d take banners over facilities any day, from a purely technical aspect, it doesn’t look like Pauley matches up. I’m aware of the issues with space and the footprint, but is this the best we could do?

I know there was concern about the need for UCLA's arena to be multi-purpose, but there are countless examples around the country of multi-purpose arenas that are outstanding for basketball at the same time. Cal’s Haas Pavilion, Pitt’s Petersen Events Center and Texas Tech’s United Spirit Center are all examples of retractable seating that allows for multiple sports to be played there while still making for a fantastic basketball venue. The multi-purpose aspect of UCLA’s arena is not an issue.

As for cost, USC built Galen Center for $160 million and included the entire pavilion next to it with the practice courts, film rooms, sports medicine area, etc. That was built during a much different economy so while raising money was likely easier, the cost to build was also more then. Oregon’s new 12,500 seat arena will cost $200 million and includes all the over the top aspects we’ve come to expect from Oregon as well as two practice courts and an underground parking garage. Oregon is obviously going to go above and beyond becaause that’s what they do, but if $200 million gets you above and beyond, then I think it’s safe to say that $185 million can get you amazing, especially when you consider Galen Center was $160 million.

Once again, I feel as if the Morgan Center went for good enough instead of exceptional and the best it can be. It's possible that the Morgan Center has done a poor job conveying the exact details of the plan and that there's a lot more to the renovation than we currently know. I doubt that's the case, but it's possible. As of now, I can only feel as if the Morgan Center and everyone involved came up short so I sure hope that at some point in the near future they address what appear to be many a shortcoming.

The plans as is are nice and get the job done, but there’s no way you could convince me that this is the best it can be. You couldn’t convince me that this will serve the students, fans and athletes as best as it possibly can. I’m sorry, but what I’m seeing won’t make Pauley the best or one of the best arenas in the nation. It will make it a very nice arena, but will rely on the history there to carry it into the upper echelon. What it should be is one of the nicest with a history that puts it head and shoulders above the rest. Oregon's arena is the most expensive on-campus arena ever built and we’re very close to it, so why does ours feel a large step below theirs?