This story originally appeared in UCLA Today, a discontinued publication.

Students and fans get first peek inside the new Pauley Pavilion

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Pauley Pavilion exterior
New Pauley Pavilion. Click on thumbnails at right to see more images. Reed Hutchinson/UCLA
 
The wait to see inside the new Pauley Pavilion is over.

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.
 
The glass front entrance of the building is now on the north side, facing Bruin Walk and the Intramural Field. New concessions include California Pizza Kitchen, Subway, Jamba Juice, a panini bar, a "grab-and-go" mart and a Joe Brewin coffeehouse. On the south side, an outdoor marketplace will continue to sell popcorn and peanuts and will also feature food trucks. On the north mezzanine, the members-only Pavilion Club will be the only place that sells alcohol in the building.

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.
 
"It used to have a cavernous feel, almost to where it was opponent-friendly," said women's volleyball head coach Mike Sealy. "It was tough to get a big crowd here that felt daunting, the way the layout was. So it's a huge upgrade now."
 
More than 1,000 seats were added, with individual padded seats replacing benches on the lower level. The new seats in Pauley are now in three shades of blue, including Bruin blue. The lone exception — located in Section 104, Row B, Seat 6 — is gold. That seat belongs to Coach Wooden.
 
New men's volleyball head coach John Speraw, who is returning to his alma mater after coaching the UC Irvine Anteaters to the NCAA title last year, said, "What's nice about Pauley Pavilion being renovated is that I still feel like this is Pauley as I remember it. You walk in, and it still feels like, 'Oh, I played here.' But everything else is nicer. It's still the Pauley you competed in, and it feels like home as a result. So I'm excited to be back."

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.
 
 
 
 
The total renovation cost was approximately $136 million and was funded through a variety of sources: private gifts, long-term debt backed by ticket sales and sponsorships, other UCLA Athletics revenues and $15 million from an existing fee paid by UCLA students to help fund earthquake and life-safety upgrades. Pauley Pavilion is operated by the UCLA Department of Cultural and Recreational Affairs for the benefit of the entire campus and is used for student welcoming ceremonies, commencement ceremonies, intramural sports and a wide variety of other events.

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.
 
"We wanted to make certain that they had state-of-the-art facilities," he said. "It's important, as you know, from a recruiting standpoint. We also wanted to preserve the legacy of Pauley and all the great things that have happened with UCLA's great student–athletes in basketball, volleyball and gymnastics."

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."
 
Women’s gymnastics head coach Valorie Kondos Field said that recruits who tour the new Pauley make the same comment: “They say that it is understated, that it is not ostentatious. One thing I think UCLA does well is that we’re very confident without being arrogant. And I believe that what they’ve done with this renovation embodies all of that."

Former Bruin and Lakers great Jamaal Wilkes toured the new Pauley for the first time on Tuesday and said he was very impressed.
 
"I was thinking about Coach Wooden on the way over here, and I think he would be pleased because it's state-of-the-art, but it retains the flavor of Pauley and it's not overly flamboyant," Wilkes said. "It's kind of understated. It's classy, like he was."
 
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