Since she was a little girl, Anna Li — the senior team leader of the 2010 NCAA champion UCLA women’s gymnastics team — knew that her parents had represented China in gymnastics in 1984 at the Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
What she didn’t know, until a few years ago, was that they had competed in Pauley Pavilion.
“On my recruiting trip to UCLA, we were walking outside of Pauley Pavilion with Head Coach Valorie Kondos Field, and my mom started getting teary-eyed. My coach asked, ‘What’s wrong?,’ ” Li recalled. “And my mom told her, ‘The last time I was here with Anna’s dad was at the 1984 Olympics.’ And that’s when I put two and two together, that they had competed in Pauley Pavilion.”
That discovery has only added to Li’s excitement about her next appearance at the venerable facility — as a speaker at the May 11 Pauley Pavilion groundbreaking ceremony at 1 p.m. on the east exterior concourse. Pre-ceremony activities, featuring the UCLA Bruin Marching Band and UCLA Spirit Squad, will begin at 12:30 p.m. The event is open to the campus community.
Li will be joined on the program by Chancellor Gene Block, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Janina Montero, Athletic Director Dan Guerrero and Matt Pauley, vice chair of the Campaign of Champions. After the program, the five speakers will put shovels into the ground to symbolize the beginning of the exterior construction, scheduled to begin this month.
They will be joined by the head coaches of UCLA’s teams that compete in Pauley Pavilion, including men’s basketball Coach Ben Howland, men’s volleyball Coach Al Scates and new women’s volleyball Coach Mike Sealy. (Women's gymnastics Coach Valorie Kondos Field had a prior work commitment, and women’s basketball Coach Nikki Caldwell is out of town on her annual “Cruisin’ for a Cause” motorcycle ride to raise money for breast cancer research.)
Alumni student-athletes such as Michael Warren, a member of the Campaign of Champions Committee, and Tyus Edney, point guard for the 1995 NCAA championship UCLA basketball team, will be there, as will student-athletes from several of the teams that play in Pauley.
Despite the dreary economic climate, UCLA has made impressive progress toward its $100-million Campaign of Champions goal, announced a year ago. More than 600 donors have contributed gifts and pledges totaling $65 million, and the fundraising committee has been working hard to raise the remaining amount. The other funding sources include long-term debt backed by the Athletic Department’s general operating budget and an existing fee paid by students to fund seismic and life-safety improvements to student facilities. The original estimated cost of the project, $185 million, has been lowered to $136 million because construction costs in the bidding process came in much lower than originally anticipated.
The project will entail overdue infrastructure and amenities improvements on the 45-year-old facility, including major seismic and life-safety upgrades, improved seating access by evening out the steps and creating wider pedestrian concourses, modern locker rooms and training facilities.
Matt Pauley, grandson of Edwin W. Pauley, has been an enthusiastic proponent of the project and an active member of the campaign committee. At last year’s campaign launch, he described what he thought might have transpired when architect Welton Becket, Chancellor Franklin Murphy, Athletic Director Wilbur Johns and Coach John Wooden first set out to build Pauley Pavilion.
“I’m sure they had grand visions. Probably something like, ‘Create an imposing home court that allows more fans to watch a game. Design a multipurpose venue that can support basketball, volleyball, gymnastics and all the other non-sports-related activities they do here,’ ” Pauley said.
“My grandfather, Edwin Pauley, agreed with that vision to such a degree that he provided the original challenge grant to get the project moving and to help rally others in the Los Angeles community in building the new arena. However, I do not think any of them could have envisioned what the future of Pauley Pavilion would look like!”
With the new upgrades, Pauley Pavilion will continue to be a highly desirable venue for non-UCLA events, as well. Since its opening in 1965, Pauley has served as the site for many entertainment and corporate events and community celebrations, including the annual Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards and concerts by the Jerry Garcia Band, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Lenny Kravitz, Joni Mitchell, Frank Zappa, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, and Phish.
Pauley has also been the venue for such momentous occasions as the 1984 Olympics, President Bill Clinton’s appearance at UCLA’s 75th anniversary convocation in 1994, the Dalai Lama’s 1997 visit and the 1988 presidential debate between George H.W. Bush and Michael Dukakis, now a visiting professor in the School of Public Affairs.
And there are the smaller — but no less important — events that take place inside Pauley, such as Commencement, the New Student Welcome, Bruin Bash, Spring Sing, and numerous intramural and club sports team practices and competitions. “These will continue when Pauley Pavilion returns,” said Mick Deluca, director of the UCLA Department of Cultural and Recreational Affairs, which operates the facility. “With the new concourse and multi-use room space, additional options for student and campus use will be available through recreation programming.”
The arena will be closed for interior construction following conclusion of the 2010-2011 basketball season and is scheduled to reopen in fall 2012.
Enthusiastic Bruins everywhere will be drawn to Pauley Pavilion when it reopens, including gymnast Li, who is going home after graduation to train once more for the elite (Olympic) level. “But I’m looking forward to coming back and watching my teammates and seeing the new, renovated Pauley Pavilion,” she said.