After two-and-a-half years of renovation, UCLA's beloved arena is ready to be revealed. With the first UCLA men's and women's basketball games scheduled for Nov. 9 and 10, respectively, Bruins are eager to see the improvements made since groundbreaking began on the project in May 2010. The campus will celebrate the storied building's grand reopening with a week's worth of festive events. "Welcome Back to Pauley Week" will run from Oct. 28 to Nov. 4 and will offer a variety of events for UCLA fans, alumni, students, faculty, staff and donors.
What will they see? For starters, a bright and spacious concourse now winds around the building and features graphic touches such as the Championship Wall, showcasing all 108 of UCLA's NCAA titles. "Wooden Way," in the east concourse, is devoted to Coach John Wooden memorabilia. A bit of cool trivia: The wood paneling on the wall in this area was taken from the old basketball court floor.
Another improvement for fans: New Pauley has four times as many women's restrooms as before, while the number of men's restrooms has more than doubled. The Americans With Disabilities Act–compliant building has increased the number of elevators from one to three, and there are now many more spaces for patrons with wheelchairs.
When fans leave the concourse and enter the arena bowl, they will be struck by how the architects managed to retain the old Pauley aura while modernizing everything from seating to lighting. The familiar blue-and-gold colors are there, only brighter; the stairways are in the same place, but they have sleek new handrails and the step-tread patterns are consistent; the new video scoreboard is huge and state-of-the-art; and a brand-new LED ribbon circles the arena seats.
Retractable seats extend down to the court, eliminating the expanse of space that used to separate fans from the baskets.
Sports fans will also notice an exciting improvement with the lighting: Workers have installed an "all-off, all-on" system that will allow UCLA technicians to use special production effects, such as spotlighting players during introductions.
On Monday night, 400 staff members from UCLA Athletics, UCLA Recreation, the UCLA Spirit Squad and the UCLA Police Department held a mock event in Pauley in which the lighting, sound system and other features were tested. One of the tests included a "master flush," in which staffers situated themselves in the restrooms and locker rooms and flushed all the toilets at the same time. The master flush, apparently, went very well.
While emphasizing that the fan experience is very important, UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero also stressed that providing student–athletes with the proper amenities was another top priority.
The amenities for the student–athletes won't be visible to most fans. These include new locker rooms for men's and women's basketball, a weight room, and a student lounge. Of the new film room, women's basketball head coach Cori Close said, "This is going to be such a huge teaching tool for us. It's typical of what Coach Wooden always taught us — to be efficient with our time, so our players have the best chance to be quality student–athletes."
Former Bruin and Lakers great Jamaal Wilkes toured the new Pauley for the first time on Tuesday and said he was very impressed.