For decades, Pauley Pavilion had an air of college basketball royalty.
It was where Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, and Reggie Miller played. Most of all, it was where the legendary John Wooden coached.
The Pauley Pavilion that opened in 1965 was an enormous step up from the campus gym where the Bruins used to play – nicknamed the “B.O. Barn.” But more than 40 years later, Pauley was – by comparison to modern arenas - dark, cramped and dated.
Not anymore, says Nora Brackbill, a physics major who came to get a look at the improved Pauley.
“I think it looks so good,” she said. “I’m a fourth year so I was here before it was renovated and it looks so much better. There’s so much blue and yellow.”
Brackbill was among several dozen students, alumni, faculty members and reporters who got a "sneak peek" tour of the newly-renovated Pauley on Tuesday.
UCLA’s two and a half year, $136 million fix of its famed on-campus sports arena is almost complete. About 700 seats were added. They doubled the number of restrooms for men – and for women, there are four times as many as before.
There are new L-E-D scoreboards throughout the arena, and sleek, wider concourses.
John Wooden’s picture is everywhere and there’s an area called Wooden Way with glass display cases that will feature changing memorabilia.
“The old facility had all the history but didn’t have the amenities people were used to,” said Rich Mylin, UCLA’s Associate Director of Facilities for Events and Recreation. “We kept the history because we didn’t tear down the building, but we’ve added all the amenities not only for the ticket holder but for the basketball player as well.”
Players get locker rooms adorned with thick carpeting and cherry wood and place to watch game film that looks more like a movie theater. Big donors get a big 6,000 square-foot club with a full bar and kitchen. And all fans get glass garage doors on the concourse.
“If we get that really nice L.A. evening, we will raise these garage doors and create an indoor/outdoor lounge opportunity on the south side,” said Mylin.
Of course, Mylin realizes most fans don’t come to games for the lounging. They want to see wins - something that’s been in shorter supply than usual in Westwood.
“In Los Angeles, it’s all about the product on the court being exciting and being a winner,” said Mylin. “But if you know our coaching staff and this team, they’re going to be fantastic this year. We’re really excited about what this building is going to offer campus.”
Going into the season, the Bruin men’s team is ranked 13th in the nation in both the AP and USA Today Coaches polls.
Their first game is next Friday against the Sycamores of Indiana State.
Indiana State is a fitting opponent for UCLA's debut game in the renovated Pauley Pavilion. John Wooden's first job as a college head coach was at the Terre Haute, Ind. school in 1946. He led the Sycamores to league titles in 1946-47 and 1947-48 before moving on to UCLA.
Wooden declined to take his '47 squad to the National Association of Intercollegiate Basketball tournament in Kansas City because the NAIB refused to let black players participate.
Citing the NAIB's "whites only" policy the following season, Wooden again refused an NAIB invitation for his '48 squad. But tournament officials relented, and Wooden agreed to let the Sycamores play.
One of Indiana State's reserves - Clarence Walker from East Chicago - became the first black player to appear in a collegiate post-season game.
Like the basketball court at the renovated Pauley Pavilion, the floor at Indiana State's Hulman Center is named The Nellie and John Wooden Court after the legendary coach and his wife.