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Editorial: Proposal for new basketball facility proves wasteful

By Editorial Board

May 29, 2014 1:01 p.m.

Major Division I athletics programs like UCLA’s face the constant challenge of having to please multiple parties with every action. Donors, high-caliber coaches and the best recruits are all necessary pieces in sustaining a multimillion-dollar, national title-winning operation.

Catering to all these parties also requires the best facilities, which understandably will be due for renovation after years of wear and tear.

High-cost facilities that serve to benefit very few, however, are best left as blueprints. Specifically, UCLA Athletics’ recent proposal for a $30-40 million, state-of-the-art men’s and women’s basketball facility to be built south of the Los Angeles Tennis Center would be an enormous waste.

The proposal to facilitate new locker rooms and 24-hour practice courts seeks to raise private funds as a large part of the $4.2 billion for The Centennial Campaign for UCLA and comes on the tail of a $136 million renovation of Pauley Pavilion, a donor-funded facility already dressed with brand-new locker rooms and a film room. With its updated and expansive amenities, UCLA Athletics’ plan is little more than a pricey redundancy. The department plans to raise $260 million from donors by 2019, a pool of funding that will help pay for plenty of purposeful renovations. A new basketball facility isn’t one of them.

The new facility will undoubtedly serve as a perk for recruits in years to come. Facilities and resources are on par with a tradition of winning and a history of professional placement as incentives to draw top-flight recruiting classes.

This board recognized the benefit of a steady recruiting stream with the announcement of a football-facility funding drive late last year, but the football program’s needs are entirely different. Spaulding Field consists of two less-than-stellar 80-yard football fields, and the Rose Bowl is a hard sell to high school athletes at a 30-plus-minute drive from campus. Something in that equation had to change for the football program to be on a level playing field with schools like Oregon and USC.

And even with scheduling conflicts, this campus is by no means devoid of basketball courts. UCLA has indoor courts in the John Wooden Center and the Student Activities Center, which within the last month has been a suitable-enough host for NBA franchises like the Golden State Warriors and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Ken Weiner, UCLA senior associate athletic director, perhaps summed it up best in a promotional video tour of the new Pauley Pavilion from October 2012.

“28,000 square feet of floor space,” he said. “That’s a lot of space to get things done.”

It’s enough space, in fact, to eliminate any reasonable need to spend $30-40 million on more square footage.

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