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Followup Thoughts On Pauley Renovation Plan Announcement

Let's revisit the topic of Pauley renovation again. It's clear the opinion on this topic here on BN is fluid at least in this Bruin community. Last week immediately after the public announcement at Pauley the opinion here was fairly positive as about 68 percent of BN were either "very impressed" and "impressed" with what they have seen and read about the plan.

Well after a lot of great back and forth discussion it seems like the opinion has shifted. The number of folks who are  either "very impressed" and "impressed" has now dipped to 45 percent and 30 percent of BN are now "unsure" about the project. Meanwhile, there is a big article in the LA Times  today which features criticisms from two individual whose comments might be perceived as sour grapes because of roles in the ongoing renovation project.

Criticism in the LA Times features comments from Richard Bergman. If you remember Bergman aired his complaints about the project previously in the Daily News. Bergman has been upset because the UCLA officials apparently to move on beyond hm because he reportedly tried to impose his own "solutions" re. the renovation project on the school via his individual outreach to other donors.

So Bergman per the LA Times enlisted the help of a gym buddy to get second opinions on Pauley renovation:

By last fall, while others on the committee supported the new plans, Bergman had grown dissatisfied and sought outside advice.

Frank Gehry, who designed the Walt Disney Concert Hall, knew Bergman from the gym where they both worked out and agreed to take a look.

He subsequently contacted UC officials, saying he thought UCLA had "slipped away" from addressing the arena's most pressing needs.

"I just thought I should write the [UC] president because of Richard's concerns," Gehry said. "I was trying to help him make his point."

Okay. Another person offering up criticisms in the LAT piece is Michael Hallmark, one of the designers behind Staples Center:

Pauley Pavilion tends to clog because fans move about within the seating bowl. Modern arenas have solved this problem by adding concourses, wide outer rings that allow patrons to walk more freely, visiting restrooms and snack bars before re-entering the bowl through tunnels.

The NBBJ plan adds concourses of varying widths along three sides, with traffic redirected back inside the bowl along the western end.

"Just as in roadway design," Hallmark's analysis states, "turns and curves slow down movement, create confusion and frustration."

The architect suggests that the concourses are too narrow and that, by reducing the overall number of vertical aisles, NBBJ is making the rows in some sections too long.

He wants UCLA to convene a peer review of independent experts to revisit these and other issues.

"It's just a very convoluted plan," he said. "I would be shocked if you didn't get 10 sports architects to all render that viewpoint."

Well Hallmark is certainly not one of those "independent" experts.  Per the LAT report Hallmark "served as a consultant early in the Pauley Pavilion project and, when HOK Sport dropped out of the picture, he paired with another firm to vie for the job." So it's not like he is lobbing critcisms at the current project from an impartial pov given that he had lost out on bids for renovations.

The pov that I found interesting was that of David Kahn who is not aligned with any particular side. Per the Times report he is an alumnus and former general manager of the Indiana Pacers, who has "experience" with the construction of Conseco Fieldhouse (which at least on TV seems like a very cool gym with old school feel). And it appears that the school administrators are interested in hearing some of Kahn's suggestions:

So administrators appear to have closed the door on major design changes, though they will consider smaller adjustments.

Toward that end, Kahn will visit from Indianapolis early this week. If nothing else, the former NBA executive can talk about living through an arena project.

During the construction of Conseco Fieldhouse, the pro franchise weathered criticism for its plans. Kahn recalls trying to build a consensus but noted "that's easier said than done."

More than anything, he believes, UCLA officials must be sure of their goals as they work through two-plus years of construction, pointing toward Pauley Pavilion's grand re-opening in the fall of 2012.

"You want to make certain that when it's finally done, most of those [negative] feelings will be eroded," he said. "Meaning people will walk in and say, 'Oh my God, they really did this right.' "

I think that is an encouraging note. Right now I totally understand that not everyone is happy. However, after reading lot of the suggestions and constructive (and passionate criticisms) about this project I am still in watchful waiting mode. So far from what I have heard from Howland and even Neuheisel, it sounds like they are excited about it. That matters at least to me. I also understand that lot of folks want a brand new gym that will offer a cozy home experience while a daunting one for the road team. But the comments from Barnes2JJ last week really struck a cord with yours truly:

[P]auley is special because of its players and coaches. Maybe the building and fans didn’t win any titles—I don’t know. I wasn’t there. But if you cremate the building and build something new and call it Pauley, you won’t be able to say Alcindor played here. Or Walton. Or Ed O’Bannon. You could say that those guys played in the building which used to be here.

To that comment, some of you will say “Big Deal.” Fair enough. Maybe it’s the romantic in me talking, but I like to visit places which have some historical significance, even if they are not an architectural gem. If you knock Pauley down, you can hang up the banners and call it Pauley, but the new building will have no historical value whatsoever. And that’s a fact.

I will tell you this. I know the current version of Pauley needs a facelift. But I will tell you exactly how I felt when I walk in there. I feel the same way as many Red Sox fans feel when they walk into Fenway (a park I have been to many times). There is a romantic value to Pauley that I can't put into words. That building is lot more than just a basketball arena to me. It is where I had my graduation. It is where I shared lot of incredible moments with some of my lifelong friends. So my heart aligns more with the effort of renovating it so that it preserves as much of its traditional mystique as possible. I know everyone doesn't agree with me on that point and that is totally fine.

Ultimately, it will be up to DG and Chancellor Block to shepherd this renovation project within the targeted time frame. It will be impossible for them to make everyone happy. That wull never happen. However, if they can follow Kahn's advice about making sure of their goals and taking in as many practical suggestions as possible to build a consensus, I think they might be able to pull this through. We will see. For now I am still going to be in watchful waiting (and following very closely) to see how they followup with their announcement from last week.