If you poll most modern college basketball fans, few can tell you which program currently holds the most NCAA championships. Even more surprising to most is the gap between the UCLA Bruins and the team the second most. The Celtics hold most banners in the NBA, the Yankees control the World Series trophy in MLB, but the blue and gold holds an NCAA-most eleven basketball championships.
The original facility was opened in 1965 and was named for the primary donor, Regent Edwin W. Pauley. The original cost of the facility eclipsed the $5 million mark with contributions coming from the state, the student body, and the alumni. Like the Duke Blue Devils, the court itself is given its own name to honor an individual that made countless contributions to the program. On Decemeber 20, 2003, former coach Wooden and his wife, Nell, were honored as the court was named "Nell & John Wooden Court."
As the venue was nearing its 50th anniversary, it became clear that a major upgrade was needed. During the 2011-12 season, the Bruins played many of their home games at the Memorial Sports Arena (near the campus of rival USC) while a $136 million renovation was completed on Pauley Pavilion. The renovation added approximately 70,000 square feet inside of the arena, concourses that would now be up to 40 feet wide, 154 percent increase in the number of restrooms, 1,000 additional seats, and a new high definition scoreboard.
The renovated facility was re-opened on November 9, 2012 against Indiana State University. While the opponent for the grand re-opening may not be a notable rival, there was certainly significance as Indiana State was the school Wooden coached prior to UCLA.
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When visiting Pauley prior to the renovations, Stadium Journey gave a generous score of "2" for the food and beverage category. The updated arena probably experienced its biggest improvement in terms of concessions.
My favorite enhancement was a section of the concourse that had large garage doors that can be lifted into a large open-air section for fans to enjoy during one of the many beautiful Southern California days. Within this area, two or three food-trucks can occupy the space and provide additional concessions for fans. Many regions of the country may not have given way to the food truck craze, but they are a staple of Southern California. The area for food-trucks can allow UCLA to rotate vendors easily based upon fan favorites or preferences.
The inner concourse, now widened significantly, also offers many new vendors with videoboards, allowing menu items to be changed out easily and providing fans an illustration of some of the food items that they are purchasing.
The most common stand was known as the "UCLA Bruins Homestand." Here, the main entrée seemed to be encased meats as the options included the Bruin Dog (1/4 lb for $5), regular hot dog ($4.25), chili cheese dog ($6.50), or bratwurst at $8.75. Other common arena items found here included nachos ($4.75 or $6 for the loaded version), popcorn ($3.75), soft pretzel ($4), peanuts ($3) or churro ($4). Assorted ice cream options were also available for $5 each.
The newness to the concessions came mostly from branded vendors. Subway was on hand with $7 six-inch sub and $2 bags of chips. California Pizza Kitchen had several of its signature pizzas ($11) and salads ($9). Jamba Juice offered its smoothies for $6 and other assorted snacks.
The beverage menu was rather limited with soda options limited to Coke (Diet) and Sprite ($3 for 16 oz, $3.50 for 24 oz, and $4 for 32oz). Other beverage options included lemonade $3.50, Dasani Water ($4 for 20 oz and 1 liter for $6), Powerade ($4), Red Bull or Odwalla juice ($4.50). Hot beverages include coffee and hot chocolate for $3.50 each.
While I wouldn't put the in-game atmosphere on the level or some of the bigger/well-known college basketball programs, the pre-game certainly has an aura that few can match.
Few programs boast a former coach with such a positive reputation, the NCAA record 11 championships, and jerseys of some of the all-time collegiate greats hanging above the court.
When it comes to atmosphere, the most notable part of any Bruins game is the "8 Clap." This cheer consists of 8 consecutive claps, lifting your right hand and shouting "U," followed by 3 claps, lifting the left hand and shouting "C," followed by 3 claps, then alternating hands and doing the same for the "L" and the "A." Then quickly they chant "U-C-L-A" while rotating hands and "Fight! Fight! Fight!" You will certainly hear this at least a dozen times during any game.
The student section, known as "The Den" is usually full prior to tipoff and it's worth getting there early to hear them do the role call. If you are not familiar with the practice that was made famous at Yankee Stadium, the fans simply chant each player's name until the player acknowledges the fans.
One of the more notable items that the fans participate in occurs when a Bruin player gets fouled and scores the basket. The announcer states the player's name followed by "for the three, point, play" while they shout and clap along to the final three syllables.
The popular area just outside of campus is known as Westwood, and there are certainly options for everyone.
Diddy Riese has been serving ice cream and cookies to Westwood since 1983. This Diddy is more popular than even Sean "Diddy" Combs with the UCLA students as their fare comes at very reasonable prices. I would highly recommend stopping by and trying one of their ice cream sandwiches. Not your same old chocolate wafers with vanilla ice cream between them, you can choose from 12 flavors of ice cream as your filling and from 10 types of freshly baked cookies as your "bread."
BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse is another option that is quickly growing in popularity in Southern California with now over 100 locations. They specialize in deep dish pizza, 1/2 pound angus burgers, giant stuffed potatoes, spinach stuffed mushrooms, fried artichokes, and avocado egg rolls. Every BJ's location will offer eight year-round beers on tap and several specialty beers depending on the time of year. Save room for dessert as the "Pizookie" is said to be created here, which is a freshly baked cookie served in a pizza pan with vanilla ice cream.
Sepi's Giant Submarines is another local favorite. With a menu that offers nearly 20 different subs and 5 wraps among other things, fans are sure to find their favorite. Newly remodeled with televisions and a nice selection of beers, this place can make for an inexpensive evening to watch the Bruins if you are not at Pauley.
If you are in the mood for pizza, try Enzo's Pizza, which offers slices and whole pies until at least 3 AM. You'll hear the sound of Sinatra and even see some prints of the Godfather among the red and white-checkered tablecloths. Beyond pizza, they serve lasagna, chicken dishes, and sandwiches.
The Westwood Brewing Company can be found in the center of the Westwood Village and offers an extensive beer menu. Two stories high, you'll find entertainment such as karaoke or comedians on the second story on given nights. With multiple televisions and over 30 beers on tap, good times can be had by all.
O'Hara's is a younger bar formerly known as Maloney's. Often filled with college students, its claim to fame is the liters of cheap beer. Several TVs are on hand and lots of music is played throughout the evening, but it is said that the lines to get in the door can be overwhelming.
With so much success over the years, it has been relatively easy for the fanbase to become large and passionate. Many of the fans in the arena were donning the UCLA blue and gold and it seemed that every fan knew the 8-clap since they came out of the womb. As with the opening of any new venue, the attendance figures are currently very strong. Unlike many other Southern California sporting events, most fans were in their seats prior to the start of the contest.
The UCLA campus is located in Westwood, and as a result, fans are likely to face some frustrating traffic on the way to the game. To get to Pauley Pavilion, you'll likely take either the 10 Freeway or the 405 Freeway and take the Wilshire Boulevard exit. Once you approach the arena, take note of the many signs directing fans to the parking. Most spots go for approximately $11 and appear to be in a secure garage.
The restrooms are now much cleaner and larger than before, providing a more reasonable flow of fans in and out.
The renovations definitely made the most strides in terms of food and beverage, but access was not far behind. A more spacious concourse, better sightlines, and improved scoreboards all lead to a more enjoyable experience. Where I felt the renovations missed was in regards to the legroom. The seating is still extremely tight and if someone in your row gets up during the game, significant efforts have to be made to let the fan get by.
Unless a new venue is opening in Miami, tickets for an inaugural season will be difficult to come by, especially for a competitive team.
Face value for tickets will vary, with mezzanine seats going for $40 for conference games and $25 for non-conference opponents. Due to high demand, fans are likely to pay much higher prices on the secondhand market.
Lower level seats are much more difficult to come by, with season tickets or mini plans serving as a requirement to access them at face.
Concessions are priced fairly for Southern California and I felt parking was reasonable as well, considering the congestion in the area.
It is definitely a worthwhile investment to see the vast transformation of one of college basketball's most famous venues. The price may be a bit much for some fans at this point, but one would expect them to stabilize in the near future.
Pauley Pavilion has transformed from a "no frills" arena to a leader of the college basketball extras. Any fan could spend the duration of a game perusing the exhibits showcasing Bruin basketball history.
The first stop for any newcomer must be the John Wooden statue outside of the arena. This lifesize statue lists his years with the program and one of his more memorable quotes on a plaque below. Inside the arena, fans may also note an empty seat behind the Bruins' bench. This seat was where Wooden would sit once his coaching days ended, so the school keeps it open as a tribute to him.
Once inside the arena, fans will spot many "Incredible Moments" signs on pillars throughout the concourse. Difficult to miss with their UCLA Blue and gold color scheme, these signs honor many of the great achievements in Bruin sports history. Two of the signs that I paid particular attention to included the Men's basketball team avenging their loss to Notre Dame (Janurary 26, 1974, shortly after Notre Dame ended the Bruins 88 game winning streak) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar setting the single game scoring record (February 25, 1967, when he was then known as Lew Alcindor).
Next up, the fans from all walks have to respect the banners hanging above the court. No other NCAA Men's program has as many NCAA Championship banners as the UCLA program has on display at Pauley. Now eleven in total, the first of the championships came in 1964 and the most recent occurred in 1995. Each of the banners has a blue background with gold print showing the year and the phrase "National Champions." While many schools proudly display their conference championships, UCLA scoffs at such an idea. In fact, while UCLA won the NIT tournament in 1985, the banner has not been visible since 1995. This sends a clear signal that this culture aspires for only the best.
Beginning in 1990, UCLA began retiring the jerseys of several of their notable players. The first two inductees to be named were Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (#33 who played as Lew Alcindor) and Bill Walton (#32). In 1996, four additional players were retired as Walt Hazzard (#42), Sidney Wicks (#35), Marques Johnson (#54), and Ed O'Bannon (#31). In 2004, a seventh member was added as Gail Goodrich (#25) also had his number retired during the game that commemorated the 40th anniversary of UCLA's first championship.
Lastly, fans need to take a stroll down Wooden Way, where they will find one of the more interesting collections of college basketball memorabilia that they will ever encounter. There is John Wooden's Pyramid of Success, hardwood from previous UCLA home courts, a list of All-Americans, the wall of champions, signed basketballs, and much more.
After expressing disappointment from my first visit to the Pauley Pavilion two years ago, I am now really excited with the progress made on the venue. The concourse felt like a new, futuristic arena and I loved the incorporation of the garage doors and food trucks.
The in-game experience is very similar to previous seasons, but the sightlines and scoreboard enhancements really make for a much more enjoyable game.
Overall, I remain impressed by the transformation that this arena has undergone and highly recommend that all sports fans get out and see the new Pauley.
Follow Drew's journeys through Southern California on Twitter @Big10Drew.
When you think about championship banners, venues such as the Boston Garden, The Forum, and Yankee Stadium come to mind. When you take these thoughts to the collegiate level, Pauley Pavilion has to be at the forefront. With now eleven Men's Basketball titles under its belt, the home of the UCLA Bruins is sure to intimidate any opponent.
The facility was opened in 1965 and was named for the primary donor, Regent Edwin W. Pauley. The original cost of the facility eclipsed the $5 million mark with contributions coming from the state, the student body, and the alumni.
Like the Duke Blue Devils, the court itself is given its own name to honor an individual that made countless contributions to the program. On Decemeber 20, 2003, former coach Wooden and his wife, Nell, were honored as the court was named "Nell & John Wooden Court."
The arena has 10,337 permanent padded seats and an additional 2,482 seats in the form of retractable bleachers giving it a total capacity of 12,829 although some of the bigger games have eclipsed 13,000.
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