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“Even at a relatively young age, I’ve seen and experienced my share of storied locations in the sporting world: Michigan Stadium (The Big House), Neyland Stadium (Tennessee), Memorial Stadium (Cal-Berkeley), Madison Square Garden, Staples Center, The Rose Bowl, and of course, historic McArthur Court. However, after taking a recent sneak peek at the brand-new $200 million Matthew Knight Arena, my jaw may need some dentistry work done, as it spent so much time on the floor during the tour.
The new home to the University of Oregon basketball program has to be inducted as one of the wonders of the sporting world. TVA Architects, the Portland based architecture firm, developed a magnificent vision to represent Oregon basketball and revolutionize how NCAA basketball arenas are built. According to their press release, one of the main goals of the design firm was to “not only honor the heritage of Mac Court, but to also create a forward-looking, modern ‘theater for basketball’ that will provide an unprecedented experience for players and fans alike.” Mission accomplished.
For Ducks fans, Mac Court is a cornerstone of the Ducks experience and a wonderful venue to experience a basketball game. However, ‘The Pit’ has been around for 84 years and, for as much as fans love its nuances, has become outdated. As much fun as it is to sit in hardwood seats, cramped quarters, have multiple obstructed views, and only a couple bathrooms to choose from, it was time for a change. It was the second oldest on-campus arena in the nation and it definitely looked and felt that way. It will be forever remembered for having the crowd on top of the action and raucous noise the audience generated to back their team. Thankfully, all of this has been preserved and recreated to a greater extent in the new venue.
The outside of the building is a tease to the anticipation of the action that lies inside. Lead designer Robert Thompson: “The building’s orientation, scale, and transparency all serve to create a sense of anticipation for fans from the moment they park their cars or bikes to the time they take their seats.”
Thirty percent of the building’s outer façade is made up of glass, giving the fan a glimpse of the inside. From the three main entrances of the building, the hanging scoreboard is visible through the entrance, lending to the excitement. To fit in with the local tradition of Eugene, there is a large collection of hanging bike racks for fans to hang their bikes just outside the arena, with an underground parking garage available as well.
Walking through the main concourse of the structure, everything is simply a cut above. From basic signs, vending carts, extensive interior white oak wood paneling, the whole feeling of the building exudes ‘extraordinary.’
“We wanted Matthew Knight Arena to embody the values of the University: innovation, creativity, and optimism,” stated Thompson. The building is just that, being the first anticipated LEED Gold certified facility in the NCAA, a mark of how environmentally friendly, energy efficient, and ‘green’ it really is.
The history of Ducks basketball is accurately captured along the perimeter of the concourse’s main level. It’s captured with team photos of the 2002 and 2007 men’s teams who reached the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight, women’s legendary player Bev Smith, the great volleyball teams of the school, and a special dedication to the 1939 ‘Tall Firs’ Oregon basketball team who won the first NCAA Basketball Tournament title.
All of it tells a story of the University of Oregon athletics and tradition on the hardwood. So whether you are a UO alum or a diehard fan, it will give you chills to see the history recreated in front of you as walk to your seats.
Walking inside the actual bowl of the arena, all the anticipation and build up of expectations comes to a point of unparalleled excitement. The enormous HD scoreboard is lit up with “Knight Vision” and you can see two interlocking Oregon ‘O’s between the four main screens of the display.
The actual basketball court itself is something special with an aura and energy that jumps out at you upon first sight. Seeing the designs of the trees and being “Deep in the Woods” pays homage to the ‘Tall Firs’ and it pops out at the viewer with an ominous glow that may have never before seen from a basketball court. It is named ‘Kilkenny Floor’ after prominent booster and former UO athletic director Pat Kilkenny.
Staying true to its Mac Court roots, all 12, 364 seats are on top of the action. The acoustics will support the obnoxious amount of energy from the Oregon fan base. There isn’t a single obstructed view in the building, with nearly every seat (with the exception of the student section) being padded and comfortable. The actual interior of the arena is still very steep, much like Mac Court, in order to preserve the intimate feel of the building. There are no suites in the arena, just seats. For a comparison of how Matt Court is versus its predecessor, here is a link to differentiate the amenities.
The 405,000 square foot arena is the most expensive on-campus arena in the United States. In addition, there are two full-size practice courts that adjoin the facility. There is also the McArthur Club lounge on the main floor level, which is for VIPs and boosters. It pays tribute to Mac Court with recreations of old floor designs and newspaper articles that highlight the history of the renowned building. The ‘Matthew Knight’ name comes from Nike founder and foremost University donor Phil Knight, whose son Matthew died in a 2004 diving accident.
As a very recent graduate from the University of Oregon, my expectations were very high based on how much the entire cost of the facility was. After getting a firsthand look of the arena and seeing everything up close, it has far exceeded those lofty expectations. The entire building has a ‘legendary’ feel to it, a special place where the legacy of Oregon basketball will be played for years to come. It will, and already has become, a major point of contention for Oregon recruiting and in the arms race for modern facilities.
Come January 13th at 7:30pm tip-off against USC, it will be, as usual, a great day to be a Duck!