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First glimpse of Pauley Pavilion as UCLA prepares for fall 2012 reopening

The Pauley Pavilion renovation has been under way for 27 months, and with just six months to go before its completion in mid-October, the project remains on time and on budget, said Ken Weiner, senior associate athletic director in UCLA's Intercollegiate Department of Athletics.

Plans are in the works to celebrate the opening of the new Pauley, including a week of "welcome" events in late October, Weiner said. This will be followed by the first two athletic events to be held in the building — men's and women's basketball games in early November.

Weiner recently led a group of TV and print reporters through Pauley for their first look at the construction site since the official groundbreaking in May 2010. Progress on the arena has been sure and steady, Weiner said, due to the presence of some 350 construction workers in the building every day.

In designing the new Pauley, UCLA and the architecture and design firm NBBJ had a very complicated task: to expand and renovate the structure into a state-of-the-art, multi-purpose facility while retaining the spirit of the "old" Pauley, using the university's signature structure of terra cotta, brick and glass.

"The first people we went to when we talked about the design intended for this building were Coach Wooden and the Pauley family," Weiner said. "All of them cast their votes for leaving this building intact — that we do a renovation, as opposed to a demolition. So that started our architecture direction. Basically, you'll get the feeling that we encased old Pauley Pavilion in new."

One of the most stunning changes is the brand-new concourse, which wraps all the way around the building, adding 50,000 square feet of space. The east concourse — once considered the original "front" of the building — now features floor-to-ceiling glass, allowing sunlight to flood the wing that will soon be known as "Wooden Way." Glass, in fact, figures prominently on all four outer walls of the building, making the exterior of Pauley almost unrecognizable at ground level.

Once you pass through the concourse and enter the actual arena, however, the familiar feel of old Pauley hits you right away. The interior is currently stark concrete, but the infrastructure is there, making it easy to imagine what the bowl will look like when it's finished. You can almost see shiny Nell and John Wooden Court and all the NCAA national championship banners hanging from the rafters.

Wooden Way will pay homage to UCLA's legendary men's basketball coach with three large display cabinets made with repurposed flooring from the old Pauley. Outside, in the area between Pauley and the James West Alumni Center, will be a "parkette" with benches and trees. "There will be opportunities for people to hang out here and look at Pauley Pavilion and admire Wooden Way. It will be a nice, peaceful place," Weiner said.

Of the five main entryways, the largest and splashiest will be the north entrance, facing the Intramural Field. Visitors will be greeted by a statue of Coach Wooden, and graphics on the walls will tell the story of 48-year-old Pauley Pavilion and the events that have taken place there, Weiner said. A ticket office, located on the northwest corner of the building, will supplement the main Central Ticket Office in the James West Alumni Center.

During games and other events, there will be a "marketplace" offering different food options on the south side of the pavilion, Weiner said. By showing their tickets, patrons will be allowed access to both the marketplace and the arena, increasing the number of entryways to seven.

The outer stairway that used to be at Gate 2, on the southeast corner, has been removed to make the vestibule bigger and more patron-friendly, Weiner explained. There is still an elevator located in that corner, and two more elevators have been added to the north side. Patrons will be able to access their seats from the main concourse, while students will enter via the northeast and northwest stairs to get to their arena-level seats for games. During convocation and commencement ceremonies, students will use these same entryways to get to the floor. Perhaps most important, Weiner added, all stairways now have handrails and consistently-sized steps — a source of many complaints in the past.

The number of restrooms has quadrupled for the women and more than doubled for the men, and the number of concession stands has increased by nearly a third. Food choices will include vegetarian and kosher options, a panini bar, a coffeehouse and a juice bar.

During basketball games, spectators will notice that the team benches have been flipped from the south side of the court to the north side — a change that was made because the locker rooms will be located on the north side, Weiner said. The student section has been moved to the south and west sides of the court, and the media will be sitting on the south side, rather than on the north.

"One thing you'll see that is different about Pauley Pavilion is that, in Coach Wooden's days, the court was offset about 10 feet to the east so that we could run a frosh/soph court," Weiner said. "We're now going to center the court and bring out the seats in the east and west bleachers. There won't be a 35-foot gap like we had in the past." With 400 seats added to the floor level and 600 added to the upper level, seating capacity in the new Pauley will increase from 12,800 to 13,800, he said.

There will, of course, be a brand-new speaker system, a state-of-the-art video scoreboard, a 30-inch LED message system that will wind its way around the soffit and "hustle boards" (stat boards) located in the corners of the arena.

"The soffit is engineered in a way that's sort of three-tiered," Weiner explained. "One of the things that the coaches were always telling us was that they don't hear the noise enough down there [on the court]. So now, as people get excited and start yelling at the top, that noise is going to bounce off the top and be deflected down to the bottom. But if we have a concert in here, the concert noise goes up and dies into an acoustic wall in the back."
While made famous as a sports arena, Pauley Pavilion is operated by a division of UCLA Student Affairs for the benefit of the entire campus. It is used for new student welcome events in the fall, commencement events in the spring and a variety of other events year-round, including intramural sports and concerts.

An additional 50,000 square feet of space has been built underground to provide amenities that Pauley lacked, including a players' lounge, equipment room, film room, weight room, trainers' room and officials' locker room. There will be a media room where basketball coaches Ben Howland and Cori Close will give their post-game interviews and where reporters can file their stories. A members-only Pavilion Club (capacity: 350) will feature three large-screen TVs and a bar, making it the only place in the building to serve alcohol.

"This is a room that's going to serve the university well," Weiner said. "The campus sorely needs a room of this size that can hold this type of gathering. We can hold our Olympic sports banquet here instead of in the [UCLA Athletics] Hall of Fame, which holds about 125 people in the press room. There's a system in here that's like a hotel system, where you can take the grand ballroom and split it in half. This becomes two rooms for those types of opportunities."

One impressed member of the tour was former UCLA basketball and NBA star Kiki Vandeweghe, who said, "This is my first time back since the construction, and I can't believe the progress they've made. It's bigger and better, and they've blended the old tradition of basketball at UCLA — which is probably the greatest tradition in college athletics — with the new, which is what you have to do. It's a state-of-the-art arena. I can't wait for opening day to see how it all turns out."

For more information about the Pauley Pavilion project, visit the Campaign of Champions website. To purchase season tickets for men's basketball (2012–13), click here.

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