First Impressions of New Pauley

We walked away pretty happy with the renovation of Pauley Pavilion, and with a new interior and exterior, there's plenty of reason to be excited about the future...

For the last few years, one of the biggest points of contention among UCLA basketball fans has been the Pauley Pavilion renovation. Some thought it was the only realistic way of getting close to a state of the art arena. Others thought the money should have been invested (along with another 100 or 200 million dollars) in a brand new arena, located somewhere outside of the Pauley Pavilion footprint. To be sure, that battle will probably be fought for millennia.

Given what we saw from the tour on Tuesday, though, there's a good chance that both sides of the argument could be pretty pleased.

Sightlines, which were a huge issue in old Pauley for, conservatively, at least 1000 seats, have been much improved. Tracy and I did the classic seat test where we…sat in various seats. In the 300s, they've done away with the three bar railings at the bottom of each section and replaced them with clear glass and one piece of metal at the top of the glass to keep the building in code. Before, in the 300 sections, if you sat anywhere in the bottom three rows, you had an obstructed view, but now, it's more like three or four seats per section that have that obstruction, and then only because of a metal hand railing on the stairs that UCLA is exploring changing out. It's a big improvement.

There are still those somewhat awkward 200 section seats in the corners of the building, which still don't point to center court, but there's no obvious obstruction to any of them. Those seats are one of the inherent issues with having a full purpose gymnasium as a home basketball court, and, if you're nitpicking, one of the drawbacks of renovating versus building a basketball-only facility.

UCLA, this past weekend, actually did its own seat test, and they admitted to finding a few seats throughout the 300s that weren't ideal, and are hoping to do some cosmetic work to fix the issues.

Starting from the entrance way, there was obviously a huge emphasis on accentuating the history of Pauley. On the interior walls, they've hung huge collages of the major sports played in Pauley Pavilion and some of the most famous athletes from each sport. On each of the pillars on the interior, they were in the process of hanging "Memorable moments", which gave a short description of the game or event that took place on those days. The only one that seemed really odd was the Matt Barnes-led Bruins knocking off a No. 1 team in 2002 (Kansas?), which was just bizarre. Otherwise, it looked like a good collection. Along the north wall of the arena itself is the slogan "Champions Made Here" and then a listing of each of the national championships UCLA has won (and, not to worry, there's space for enough until the next renovation). There's also a scrolling electronic billboard directly above that listing, which will give game updates and scores throughout the game.

Along the southeast entrance way, there's a team store that will sell hats, shirts, and other team attire during games. In a nice touch, that entrance way has the words to "The Mighty Bruins" written out in a pretty cool font.

In the outer concourse, there will be a Jamba Juice, a CPK, and space for two food trucks on the outside of the concourse on the south side. There will also be a coffee shop tentatively named "Joe Brewin'".

The interior of the building has been totally redone as well. The Pavilion Club, which will serve alcoholic beverages to donors above the $25,000 level, is a fairly gigantic room, and UCLA mentioned that it will double as a room for UCLA Events. It's located just underneath the north entrance of the building.

UCLA's improved the locker room, film room, and training room facilities in Pauley quite a bit. The locker room is bigger, obviously, and has a lounge area along with the main lockers for the team. Each locker is made out of what looked like Maple, and were very large. The lounge comes equipped with a huge sectional couch that looked like it could fit eight, plus decently sized TVs in both the lounge and the locker room (actually, Tracy and I were both thinking that the TVs probably could have been a little bigger—they looked like they were in the 50 inch range).

The film room looks very good, with seating for 24, a projector, and a white board, which will allow the coaches to use film to make in game adjustments at half time (if need be) or, more likely, for practice sessions. Women's basketball coach Cori Close also said it can be used by the team for movie nights, and that sort of thing. Next to the film room is a training room, with a few combination benches, a few cable and pulley machines, and plenty of free weights.

Getting out to the court from the locker room is now a pretty cool experience. The players will walk down a long hallway that has the All Americans, NBA players, and players with retired numbers displayed along the wall. It was pretty cool as it was, and they hadn't finished putting up all the pictures yet.

The court, of course, is a basketball court, but it's a slightly lighter hue than Pauley's old floor. The center court logo is, of course, changed, to the new-ish UCLA Bruins logo. In a nice touch, the old floor is now suspended upside down as the bottom of the scoreboard.

The entire orientation of the seating has changed, so that now the south side of the building will have the student section, the media, and the cameras, while the north side will have the benches. Students will actually have real seats along the court on the south side, but will be relegated to the benches behind the west basket. Students will also have access to the 300 section behind the west basket.

A UCLA representative said that about 9300 students had purchases Den season tickets this year, which is a record. Not all of those packages include basketball, of course, but it bodes well for the students to be out in force.

Along the inner concourse, running all the way around the bowl, is an electronic display, which can deliver stats, lineups, advertisements, and no doubt plenty of other multimedia.

Other notes:

*The steps are now even in the aisles, so no more drunken hurtles down a few flights of stairs.

* The seats are much closer to the court now, with courtside seats on both the west and east ends, and the actual seating sections pulled out to with eight feet of the courtside seats (the eight feet is mandated by building code rules).

*There are a few more obstructed seats right next to the media area, on the south side, and the UCLA reps sounded like they were working on adjusting the seating arrangement.

*The media is now located higher up, in the 300's, rather than in the 200's.

*The seats are pretty comfortable, and have cup holders.

*Obviously, watch Tracy's video. There are some good comments from Facilities honcho Ken Weiner, who spearheaded the project.

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