Photos by Andrei Ojeda, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14
Pauley Pavilion 650 Westwood Plaza Los Angeles, CA 90095
Year Opened: 1965
The House The Wizard Built
Originally opened in 1965, Pauley Pavilion 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. On December 20, 2003, former coach Wooden and his wife, Nell, were honored as the court was named "Nell & John Wooden Court."
Upon its opening, Pauley Pavilion was designed to accommodate various athletic events. Before the renovation, the baseline seats behind the 2nd half-visiting team's basket were a great distance from the floor. Legend has it that Coach Wooden, the gentleman he is, wanted it that way to prevent his teams from having an “unfair advantage.”
Though it has been 23 years since their last run to glory, the UCLA Bruins are still college National Champions leaders with 11 banners hanging upon the rafters, 10 of which Coach John Wooden is responsible for.
Food & Beverage 4
One of the more noticeable enhancements during the renovation is a section along the south concourse that contains large garage doors that can be lifted, permitting fans to dine in an outdoor section to enjoy one of the many beautiful Southern California days.
Within this area, food trucks can occupy the space and provide additional concessions for fans. In addition, this area also provides an extended concourse for fans to roam as well as dining tables for those wanting to dine outside, a much-welcomed addition providing fans more room to dine, stretch and roam while providing the opportunity to soak in the outdoor elements.
The area for food trucks can allow UCLA to rotate vendors. Aside from the California Pizza Kitchen truck, the options do vary. Some of the food truck offerings have included sandwiches from The Gastrobus such as Ecuadorian Pulled Pork or a Banana, Date, and Kale Smoothie.
The inner concourse offers your usual arena fare: Bruin Dogs, nachos, peanuts and cracker jacks, an assortment of candies, and Coke products. Other dining options include California Pizza Kitchen and Jersey Mike’s, offering their share of specialty pizza and sandwiches.
The moment you approach Pauley Pavilion you feel a heavy sense of tradition. If it is your first time coming to a UCLA basketball game, you will want to enter through the north entrance. Outside the north, entrance is a statue of the late great John Wooden, the man responsible for 10 of the 11 National Championship banners that hang in the rafters.
Like with any historic venue that undergoes a renovation, fans at first can be resistant to change, as many of the Bruin faithful were. But even the most storied venues get an occasional facelift, and Pauley is no different. When the facelift was complete, Bruin fans quickly warmed to her new look as the renovations not only provided wider concourses but countless displays throughout that pay homage not only to UCLA basketball’s storied history but its other athletic programs as well, over 100 plus total national championships.
One recent change fans will notice may be seen as minor and cosmetic to most viewers, but the return of the iconic center court logo, to many a Bruin fan, has brought back a sense of history. The sight of such a simple logo restores such an aura and is a reminder of the traditions that run deep.
The popular area just outside of campus is known as Westwood Village and there are certainly options for everyone. During weeknight games, players from both teams are known to roam around The Village. Most will say hi and take pictures with you.
If you're in the mood for a drink, Barney's is the main watering hole for thirsty fans. Diddy Riese has been serving ice cream and cookies to Westwood since 1983. Lines can be pretty long for this popular vendor, serving up ice cream sandwiches for the student-friendly price of $1.75. 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."
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.
Fat Sal's is also another local favorite that serves up huge sandwiches. The one I always get is the Fat Bruin, served up on extra wide hero bread with cheeseburgers, chili, bacon, onion rings, fries, ketchup, and garlic aioli.
Since Pauley’s re-opening in 2012, tickets to most games have been available even past tip-off. This may come as a surprise for a traditionally rich program at this storied venue. UCLA hoops fans, like their crosstown football counterparts, are a demanding bunch. With 11 National Championship banners hanging in the rafters, an annual trip to the post-season tournament is never enough to satisfy. However, the recent run that led them to a Sweet-16 appearance has slowly brought the blue and gold-clad faithful.
To the majority of Bruins fans, a trip to March Madness should be a given, so yes, expectations are always high. Attendance during conference play generally tends to pick up, especially against rivals Arizona and USC. When things are going great for the Sons of Westwood, Pauley is rocking where even the Hollywood types can be seen.
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 or Sunset Blvd exit. If it is a weekday game, traffic is inevitable, especially on Wilshire.
With the construction of additional campus facilities taking place close to Pauley, I would strongly advise using the Sunset Blvd exit. Aside from traffic not being as congested as opposed to Wilshire you will have an easier time finding parking. From the Sunset exit, you will want to drive west on Sunset until you arrive at campus. Not only will the campus and Pauley be visible, but you will also see signs directing you toward the parking garage.
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. If staying on LA's west side, several of Santa Monica Big Blue Buses operate inside the campus and will drop you off a short walk from the venue. Given Pauley Pavillions location, like with most any venue in LA, give yourself plenty of preparation time, and bring plenty of patience.
Return on Investment 4
For most games, advance ticket planning is not necessary. With most games not selling out, particularly early season games when the schedule may include some least attractive opponents, tickets can be found below face value on various third-party sites. Ticket prices can be somewhat pricey but if it’s your first time visiting the House The Wizard built, it will truly be worth the experience.
Located right next to Pauley is the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame. Open up until tip-off before most games, the HOF features many of the school’s many athletic accomplishments, including all the national title hardware accumulated over the years. Also on display at the HOF is a replica display of John Wooden’s den, displaying many memorabilia dedicated to The Wizard.
A popular meeting spot for fans is the John Wooden statue outside of the arena. This life-sized statue lists his years with the program and one of his more memorable quotes on a plaque below. The statue is located outside the north entrance of the arena. The statue of Mr. Wooden is not only a focal meeting point for fans, but it’s also one of the more popular photo-op spots among the faithful.
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. Fans are allowed to take pictures of the seat after the game. Out of respect for The Wizard, most fans will not sit in his seat.
Also 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.
No other NCAA men's program has as many NCAA Championship banners as the UCLA program has on display at Pauley. 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 most programs will also acknowledge their conference titles and Final Four appearances, only National Champion banners are raised here. Before the renovation, the banners were located along the rim of the court. With the banners currently hanging above the court, the 11 banners give Pauley that special imposing presence.
Beginning in 1990, UCLA began retiring the jerseys of several of its 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 retired: 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.
The recent facelift to Pauley Pavilion has vastly improved the game day experience beyond expectations. With much wider concourses, improved sight lines, enhancements to the scoreboard, and the various additions that pay tribute to many a great UCLA basketball moment, including the statue of John Wooden, a trip to a UCLA game at Pauley should be on every collegiate hoop fans bucket list (no pun intended).
If you appreciate a deep history, give yourself plenty of time before or after the game, to check out the numerous displays throughout the concourse, particularly those along the east concourse, appropriately named Wooden Way.