Tuesday, July 16

Renovation to retain old feel of Pauley Pavilion

Artist rendering of the exterior of Pauley Pavilion after the projected $185 million renovation shows the view from the direction of the Central Ticket Office. Construction will begin in March of 2010 and the renovation is expected to be complete in 2012.

UCLA ATHLETICS Artist rendering of the exterior of Pauley Pavilion after the projected $185 million renovation shows the view from the direction of the Central Ticket Office. Construction will begin in March of 2010 and the renovation is expected to be complete in 2012. Will Weiss / Daily Bruin

When the doors to Pauley Pavilion opened in 1965, school administrators were already talking about a renovation.

With all of the building’s original $5 million construction budget depleted, plans for the erection of a concourse would have to wait.

But stale as they may be, talks of fixing and upgrading the legendary athletic venue didn’t really start getting serious until 2006, when UCLA assembled a volunteer fundraising and planning committee to help get the project moving.

The group, comprised of major donors, former UCLA athletes and members of the university’s extended community, set out to form the new face of one of the campus’ largest and most storied structures.

Many would say that Pauley, at 44 years old, is long overdue for improvement, still decades behind the times in seating layout, spectator-view priority, team facilities and other amenities.

“Every aspect of the building was starting to show its wear and tear,” said Athletic Director Dan Guerrero, thinking back on the events that led to the establishment of the project’s executive committee. “The most significant area that caused us to look at doing something in a grand way came as a result of an analysis of the mechanical engineering and plumbing; small amounts of work kept things going over the years, but nothing had been done to repair or replace the infrastructure in a meaningful way.”

After it was established that plans for Pauley needed direction, and fast, the newly formed leadership group convened and discussed whether to renovate or replace the arena.

Though other projects of similar size have been completed for considerably less than the target figure of $185 million, among them USC’s brand new $147 million Galen Center, the board decided that a renovation would be both more practical and more desirable, allowing the campus to retain the old feel of Pauley while installing a complete set of bells and whistles, and without the seemingly insurmountable difficulty of demolishing and rebuilding in the same location.

“We’re very constrained for square footage on this campus,” Guerrero said. “It was decided that since Pauley does in fact have good bones, the approach should be to maintain the traditions and legacy of the past while moving into the 21st century.”

UCLA alumnus and long-time school supporter Richard Bergman was chosen to chair the volunteer leadership committee, helping both to raise funding and organize design work from 2006 through the fall of 2008.

After the board rejected plans from architecture outfit HOK Sport, Bergman oversaw the transition to design firm NBBJ.

But as plans continued to evolve, Bergman became more and more concerned that serious flaws in the design scheme could lead to expensive problems down the road, he said.

He began contacting high-profile architects, many with experience in large-scale spectator venues, and explained what he thought were major design issues.

Bergman’s fears were given some merrit when his plaints were endorsed by architects Frank Gehry and Michael Hallmark, who contributed to the designs of the Walt Disney Music Hall and the Staples Center, respectively.

Both of the architects validated Bergman’s suspicions that the existing Pauley plans were insufficient for the impending project.

“So, for what it is worth to you, the final plans that I have seen … do not focus the available funds on functional deficiencies,” said Gehry in a letter to UC Board of Regents President Mark Yudof dated May 4. “The architectural exterior cosmetic solutions are discouraging as architecture, and I don’t see them helping anybody except maybe a donor who insists on that.”

Bergman’s opinion that the planned outer concourses would not be sufficient for the arena’s capacity 14,000 fans, especially with the omission of a concourse on the western edge of the building, was supported by Hallmark.

Bolstered by such opinions, Bergman made his concerns known, holding a handful of meetings with Chancellor Gene Block and others from the executive committee and athletics department, he said.

Bergman said that after every meeting his views were noted, but that no action was taken to amend the problems; eventually, he said he had no choice but to bring his concerns before the project’s executive committee.

After waiting until the conclusion of the men’s basketball season, Bergman called a meeting of the committee on April 8, though he never disclosed his concerns to the executive committee.

UCLA refused to sanction the meeting and, according to Bergman, had a letter hand-delivered to him a couple of days later relieving him of his duties as chair.

“(Bergman) was very committed to the project, but along the way we had some disagreements ““ reasonable people have disagreements ““ on how we should proceed, and it was just felt that it was better to part ways,” Guerrero said.

Guerrero said that it would be inappropriate to comment on the specifics of the disagreement, but said Bergman had expressed dissenting opinions of the project’s architectural design and funding blueprints.

By and large, Bergman’s design disagreements had to do with foot-traffic circulation inside Pauley, arguing that patrons would still be bothered by the arena’s cramped spaces and would be incapable of circumnavigating the building without passing through the typically congested lower bowl.

He also voiced criticism of designers and organizers for failing to correct line-of-sight issues, leaving many seats at the arena’s “corners” at awkward angles instead of facing the court directly.

Though the university ultimately decided to remove Bergman from the project, Senior Associate Athletic Director Ross Bjork was careful to note that Bergman’s ideas and concerns did not go unnoticed.

“Everything that was on his list has since been addressed,” said Bjork, who is also a member of the renovation project’s executive committee. “We have been holding operational peer-review sessions with the building operator for the Staples Center and have been making adjustments based on input from the executive committee.”

Bjork said that the committee has examined all of the concerns and complications that have arisen in discussions, including those raised by Bergman, but that ultimately the various parties had visions of the final design that were too different to reconcile.

“Any time you put a price limit on things, you have to make decisions,” said Matt Pauley, a member of the executive committee and grandson of Edwin W. Pauley, for whom the historic building is named. “If there was an unlimited budget, we’d have a building that was everything for everyone. We have a limited footprint and a limited budget. That said, I think that the design sets out and accomplishes everything we want it to do.”

Pauley went on to say that he is especially appreciative of the fact that project plans to date preserve and showcase the legendary stadium’s rich history.

“Architecturally, I think it looks great; I like the way they’ve incorporated new elements with the old,” Pauley said. “This place has a lot of history and tradition. It will always be Pauley Pavilion.”

Though he is no longer involved in the planning, Bergman said he remains skeptical about certain aspects of the renovation project. Even still, he said he is excited about the future of the venue.

“I believe in the project, and for all the alumni and all the fans and all the student athletes and all the students to come,” he said. “But the plan they have, financially and design-wise, in my opinion, still needs some work.”

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