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House of Champions


By Wendy Soderburg '82

Published Oct 1, 2009 11:01 AM

It has seen dramatic championships, spectacular concerts and stirring speeches. In fact, besides Royce Hall or Powell Library, nothing symbolizes UCLA more than Pauley Pavilion. But that was then. Today, this most memorable of venues is 44 years old and badly in need of a makeover. And it's getting one — with a little help from a lot of Bruin friends.


The north side of the newly renovated Pauley Pavilion will serve as the arena's main entrance and lobby.

"It was 1965, and we had just won the United States Volleyball Association collegiate championship. Pauley Pavilion had just opened, this huge, beautiful facility, and I wanted to get my team into Pauley. We were playing in the men's gym then. I found out that the Japanese team would be stopping in Los Angeles, so I proposed to [Athletic Director] J.D. Morgan '41 that we have a triple-header in Pauley [UCLA men vs. USC men; U.S. women vs. Japanese women; U.S. men vs. Japanese men]. After the matches were over, J.D. said to me, 'Al, I'm going to see to it that volleyball becomes an NCAA sport!' … It took him a few years, but in 1970, volleyball became an NCAA sport."

— Al Scates '61, M.S. '62, Head Coach UCLA Men's Volleyball Team

As early as 1951, UCLA students realized they could no longer get by without an all-purpose pavilion in which to hold convocations, rallies, general student body meetings, commencements, dances and other events likely to draw the attendance of all 13,000 registered Bruins. So they lobbied the administration. They formed an ASUCLA Pavilion Committee. They organized 'Pavilion Week.' Finally, they sang — literally raising their voices together at Spring Sing in the Hollywood Bowl to raise funds for a pavilion drive.

Progress was slow in raising the money needed to build the arena until 1963, when Regent Edwin W. Pauley personally pledged to match, dollar for dollar — up to $1 million — funds raised by alumni and friends. The alumni succeeded in raising $1 million, student fees constituted $1 million, the state kicked in $2 million and Regent Pauley honored his pledge of $1 million. In June 1965, Pauley Pavilion — a sparkling, $5-million, state-of-the-art facility named after the Regent who helped jump-start the project, was introduced to the campus community.

Forty-four years ago, the venue "was the finest, most advanced, most admired multipurpose arena found on a college campus," says UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero '74. Today, though, time's toll is all too apparent. Pauley's infrastructure is deteriorating; its athletic facilities are inferior; its seating substandard; its aisle steps dangerous; its technology antiquated; and its restrooms and concessions woefully inadequate in number and quality. In order to overhaul the aging facility, an estimated $185 million is needed.

Singing is unlikely to help this time, so the UCLA Athletics Department has instead launched the Pauley Pavilion Campaign of Champions, a $100-million drive that will help expand and renovate the venerable old arena. As of August, the campaign had already secured $52.5 million in gifts and pledges and was working on raising the remaining $48 million. The final $85 million will come from UCLA campus support and long-term debt funded by UCLA Athletics. The new Pauley is scheduled to open in the fall of 2012.

Check out the photo gallery with highlights of Pauley Pavilion over the last 40 years.

"After more than 40 years, we're ready to bring Pauley Pavilion into the 21st century," says Guerrero. "And we will do this while maintaining the traditions of the past. We're excited about the opportunity to make Pauley Pavilion the first-class facility that our program and community deserve."

Building on Tradition

Guerrero's first step was to visit the family of the late Edwin Pauley to talk about the possibility of renovating the pavilion. Matthew Pauley M.B.A. '97, Edwin's grandson, says they were immediately supportive of UCLA's project and vision. Next, Guerrero and his staff consulted with their counterparts at comparable universities that had undertaken similar projects, including USC, Missouri, the University of Virginia and Washington.

"I think it was Karl Dorrell's '87 first year as head football coach, and this was at the New Student Welcome in Pauley. The reception he received when he was announced to go out on stage was really special, because he was being very warmly welcomed by people who were brand-new themselves. I don't remember the specifics of his speech, but I remember it referenced something like, 'I'm new here, too.' "

— Deanna Nash, Director of Events and Donor Relations

Focus groups were brought in over the past few years to meet with UCLA Athletics staff and the project's consultants and architects. Season-ticket holders and donors were well-represented, as were undergraduate and graduate students and student-athletes. Jamie Arneson, president of the student support group The Den, is pleased that students will have prominent seats along the south and west sides of the court.

"We wanted the student seating to be done in such a way that the student impact on the game would be maximized," she says. "I believe there is a large potential for the students to affect the outcome of a game, and when students are in the student section, it is their responsibility to do everything in their power to make Pauley a feared place to play."

Mike Sabes '09, former chair of Rally Committee, likes the fact that the original structure will remain generally intact. "The classic elements that give Pauley its historic, simple beauty will be preserved," he says. "Pauley Pavilion is a major hub in the UCLA community, and many people probably want Pauley to remain the way they remember it from years ago."