UCLA's new Pauley Pavilion ready for its close-up

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(Eds: Adds details, quotes. With AP Photos.)

By BETH HARRIS

AP Sports Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Something old is nearly new again at UCLA.

Pauley Pavilion - where Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, Reggie Miller and Kevin Love starred and John Wooden coached for 10 years - has gotten a major facelift.

In a city where appearance is everything, the 47-year-old arena is ready for its close-up.

The Bruins honor their championship past and address the future in the $132 million renovation to be unveiled on Nov. 9 when they host Indiana State in their men's basketball season opener.

After spending last season on the road, splitting home games between the aging Los Angeles Sports Arena and Honda Center in Anaheim, coach Ben Howland is thrilled to be back on campus.

"It is like a brand new building," he said. "It's going to be great for the next 50 years."

Construction began as UCLA was wrapping up its basketball season in March 2010 and the arena closed the following spring.

Capacity was increased by 1,000 seats to 13,800, with just under 10,000 season tickets sold for men's basketball. Unlike the windowless original design, the new exterior is mostly glass. Students won't have to make a mad dash to claim seats for men's basketball anymore. They can now sit in three sections closer to the court. The majority of bench seats that pulled out on the floor level have been replaced by chair-back seats with cup holders. The team benches have switched to the opposite side of the building.

"We have vastly improved the sightlines," said Ken Weiner, the senior associate athletic director who oversaw the project that has received a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certificate.

Except for a new lighting system installed in 1990 and the addition of a video scoreboard in 1999, the building had undergone few changes in the years since Wooden patrolled the sideline with a rolled up program in his hand. Other than the times he sat behind the Bruins bench before his death in 2010, there was no evidence of him in the old arena, but that has changed.

A statue of Wooden was set to be dedicated outside the north entrance on Friday. The corridor on the east side of the building has been named Wooden Way, and three large cabinets will be filled with mementos of the Wooden era that includes 10 NCAA championships - seven in a row - during his 27 years at the helm in Westwood. The wood surrounding the cabinets was taken from Pauley's old floor, named John and Nell Wooden Court in 2003.

Wooden's gold-upholstered seat behind the bench stands out in contrast to the other seats covered in various shades of blue. Seat 6 in Row B is part of his family's allocation, allowing them to control who sits there.

The blue-and-gold banners representing UCLA's record 11 national titles will hang in the rafters over the court.

Much of the renovation involved bringing the arena up to current building codes - with new aisles, steps and the addition of handrails. There are three elevators now instead of one and an LED ribbon board was installed. There are four times more women's restrooms and 2 1/2 times more for men. National chains will have a presence inside for the first time, while an outdoor food area will be maintained with the addition of food trucks during games.

The arena's footprint was extended 40 feet on the north side, where the main entrance was moved. Just 70,000 square feet were added in the project, while another 250,000 square feet were renovated. Graphics on the concourse walls are a nod to UCLA's storied past, and a wall lists all 108 championships won by the school's teams. The building is home to men's and women's basketball, men's and women's volleyball and women's gymnastics.

"When you walk into the facility, you know it's Pauley Pavilion," athletic director Dan Guerrero said, noting the project came in $4 million under budget. "It has that same feel but all that pop and sizzle allows us to clearly say it's the new Pauley Pavilion."

UCLA's wealthiest donors can join the downstairs Pavilion Club for $25,000 per season during men's basketball games. With room for 300 people, it's the only place in the building that will sell alcohol and it features three TVs and two projection screens.

The men's and women's basketball locker rooms have been moved downstairs, while opponents will take over UCLA's old locker room on court level.

Players can stash their gear in cherry wood lockers, with outlets to charge their electronics. They'll sit on black padded chairs with UCLA stitched on the back rest. Above the lockers, players' names, jersey numbers and hometowns are on lighted panels, something they asked for, Weiner said. The floor is covered in dark blue carpet inlaid with `UCLA Bruins.'

"Wow, what a difference 40 years makes," said Jamaal Wilkes, who starred with Walton on UCLA's national title teams in 1973 and '74.

Next to the locker area is the players' lounge with cushy sofas and a large-screen TV. The arena has a weight room for the first time, keeping players on the premises instead of having to walk outside to another building.

"This is a player-friendly experience," Wilkes said. "The quality of the locker room and projector room, it would motivate players to want to be successful here."

Howland said he didn't tour many of UCLA's recruits through the old locker room. Now, he said, "we'll take everyone in there."

"It definitely was a bummer playing in the Sports Arena last year," forward David Wear said. "With Pauley opening up, I realize how exciting it is to be back on campus."

On the walls of the hallway leading to the court, UCLA honors its players who were All-Americans, made the NBA or had their jersey retired. Wilkes pointed to his photo in two locations on the wall during a recent tour.

"They preserved the legacy and made a quantum leap into today in a classy way," he said of the renovation.

Down the hall from the locker rooms is a 24-seat video room. Previously, coaches and players watched video in the middle of the locker room on a small monitor.

Pauley Pavilion - named for former regent and chief donor Edwin Pauley - opened in June 1965. Guerrero said the school is looking into a future naming rights deal. The Pauley family has been supportive of the renovation and gave the first donation unsolicited.

Asked his favorite memory of the old building, Wilkes smiled and replied, "Winning."

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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