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

UCLA community impressed on first visits inside new Pauley Pavilion

Members of the campus community got to spend part of their day with the new Pauley Pavilion on Tuesday. And they were impressed.
"It’s exquisite, top-notch, and will always be #1," said Toney Dixon, a retiree who worked on campus for more than 40 years. "It just makes you feel good to walk in and see all of this. This is ours. This is ours. I’m so proud."
For three hours, students, faculty and staff were invited to check out the newly renovated arena. Highlights include a bright and spacious concourse, with a variety of new concession areas and displays showcasing the legacy of Bruin sports, including all 108 of UCLA’s NCAA titles and John Wooden memorabilia. The concourse also features photos of some of the high-profile people who have spoken or performed at Pauley. In addition, there are four times as many women’s restrooms as before and double the number of men’s restrooms. Read more
Dixon and her friend Marcella Tong, a senior administrative analyst in the Department of Radiation Oncology, spent some of the time reminiscing about the glory days when UCLA basketball and Coach Wooden were unstoppable.
"I was here when basketball was champion year after year after year. It was unusual if we did not beat the opponent by 30 points," said Tong, who graduated from UCLA in 1971. She remembers a tall, lanky kid named Lew Alcindor in her chemistry class. Alcindor, a Bruin basketball stand-out, went on to change his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and become the NBA’s all-time leading scorer.
Pauley, of course, has not been only a venue to watch sports like basketball, volleyball and gymnastics. Pauley Pavilion also attracted some of the world’s top musical acts. Dixon recalls seeing Tina Turner, the Commodores and the Supremes perform. "There were so many artists who just loved coming to Pauley Pavilion to perform at that time, artists who have now just gone on to greatness," she said.
As people filed in to peruse the new amenities, some preferred to plant themselves in the bleachers or stand on the upper levels looking down at the freshly installed hardwood floor.
Junior Simon Nedjat-Haiem, a psychology major, and his three friends were among them. Nedjat-Haiem, a transfer student, had never been to Pauley Pavilion before today.  "TV doesn’t do it justice," he said of the building. "You have to see it in person."
Looking at the rafters and seeing all the titles the Bruins have won is "awe-inspiring," he said.
"As a fan of basketball, it’s amazing to be able to say that I go to the same school as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook," said Nedjat-Haiem. "All these great NBA players played for UCLA at one point."
Visitors were delighted by a two-minute video, Pauley Pavilion’s Back: Join the Party, that ran in heavy rotation on the scoreboard and on video monitors. From a seat in the student section Michael Reed, a freshman business economics student, paid particularly close attention. That’s because he’s in it.
A UCLA fan since birth (his parents took him to his first basketball game at Pauley when he was still a baby), Reed became involved after responding to an online ad seeking extras. He said it was a great experience to be part of the promotional video, which features Abdul-Jabbar and other former Bruins such as Reggie Miller, Marques Johnson, Jamaal Wilkes, Anita Ortega, Ann Meyers Drysdale and Tyus Edney. "[Making the video] was a long process, but it was worth it," he said.
Reed spoke of the pride he feels as a Bruin and the memories he has of growing up watching games on the Pauley court. He also said that he was a little worried that not enough of the old Pauley Pavilion would remain once the renovations were completed. His concerns were laid to rest once he got to look around.
"I heard about how they were changing the emblem on the center court, and, you know what, I actually like it. It keeps up with the new age of basketball, and I think that we really needed to move this forward," he said. The traditional feel remains despite the upgrades and additions: "Right when I walked in I thought, ‘it’s going to be crazy in here this year.’ I couldn’t ask for anything more as a student."
Welcome Back Pauley Week events continue during UCLA’s upcoming Homecoming weekend.
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