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Ole Miss Puts Students First in New Arena, Showing UCLA Again How It's Done

Ole Miss' has made it a point to build around the students in their new arena, while at UCLA students were an afterthought in the Pauley Pavilion renovation.

Stephen Dunn

We have now played half a season at New Pauley Pavilion and I have been lucky enough to take in a game at the almost-new $130+ million arena. I got to get a look at the fantastic Coach Wooden statue, and walk the open, clean and really cool concourse. I got to look at the brand new videoboard and then I got to sit in a brand new seat. It was a really nice upgrade to the aging arena.

But then the game started.

I was sitting in the same spot, with the same bad sightline, in an arena that was just as devoid of energy as old Pauley. So everything at Pauley is fantastic, except for the most important part -- watching the game -- which is as awful as it has ever been. Thumbs up on all that money spent, UCLA!

Of course, we still don't know why the seating bowl is almost entirely unchanged. We do not know why they decided to renovate the arena instead of build a new one. We do not know why they did most of what they did. Years later, and years after we asked these questions, UCLA has yet to explain themselves.

Elsewhere, other universities are building new arenas or renovating their's, showing greater consideration to things like "how one watches the game" than UCLA did. And we are not just talking about the traditional basketball powerhouses. We're talking about places like Ole Miss.

Yes, Ole Miss is ready to spend $100 million on a brand new, 10,000 seat basketball arena. This comes just three years after opening a wonderful basketball practice facility

The Rebels' new arena appears to be a great new place for their basketball teams. It appears as if it will have all of the amenities, a nice seating bowl and everything one would expect from a new arena, but one thing in particular stands out -- the attention paid to the students.

Ole Miss plans on putting students courtside on three sides of the court with the seats as close to the court as possible. They are also going to be benches, not seats, allowing for more students and to play into the idea of a place where students stand, jump and get as raucous as possible. Oh yeah, they are also building those seats with a wall behind them so the people sitting behind the students won't be blocked by the standing students. The students will have their own entrance as well and a pre-game patio just to themselves. Atmosphere and students are clearly a priority for Ole Miss, who have made them a key to the planning of their arena.

Compare that to UCLA and Pauley, where students were going to be moved behind the basket mid-build. Where students behind the basket are seemingly miles away from the court, separated from the action by rows of courtside seats and a gigantic walkway. Did anyone see the Pauley Pavilion renovation plans years ago and think "wow, they really tried to build this place around the students and make the place as hospitable for students -- and by extenstion as inhospitable for opponents -- as possible?" No chance.

What Ole Miss is doing is the norm. Oregon built the student seats behind the basket with as steep a rake as allowed by the building code so they would be right on top of the court. Maryland did the same thing. Now Ole Miss is building around their students. That's what should be done. UCLA forgot that. Or worse, UCLA didn't care about that.