UCLA to play at LA Sports Arena
The UCLA men's basketball team will play 14 of its 18 home games at the Los Angeles Sports Arena and four others at the Honda Center in Anaheim while Pauley Pavilion is shut down for remodeling construction, the school announced Friday.
The Bruins will also play an exhibition game at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario on Nov. 6 and will open the regular season at the Sports Arena against Loyola Marymount on Nov. 11.
"We've talked all year about taking our show on the road and I'm happy everything is set," UCLA coach Ben Howland said in a statement. "The upcoming season will be unique for everyone involved but I am happy that we are playing most of our games at one facility and I know that our fans will continue to support us wherever we play."
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Athletic director Dan Guerrero said the school plans to transform the Sports Arena into a true home court by hanging its 11 national championship banners and painting the interior of the building and the basketball court in UCLA blue and gold.
"We will make the Sports Arena a great environment for our fans and our team," Guerrero said.
The decision to play at the Sports Arena did not come easy. UCLA had been set on playing home games at the Forum in Inglewood, but the owners of that facility sold it to Madison Square Garden and the new owners plan on renovating it over the next year.
In order to help determine a replacement for the Forum, UCLA officials solicited the opinions of fans by sending surveys to all season ticket holders as well as anyone who had purchased individual game tickets over the last few years.
UCLA is working on plans to bus season ticketholders to home games, similar to how students are bused to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena for home football games.
The women's team will play its home games on campus at the Wooden Center next season.
Other options for home games this season included Staples Center, Valley View Casino Center in San Diego (formerly the San Diego Sports Arena) and RaboBank Arena in Bakersfield.
The Sports Arena and Staples Center seemed to make the most sense, but Staples Center could not commit any dates to UCLA until after the 2011-12 NBA and NHL schedules were announced because the Lakers, Clippers and Kings have priority for home games there.
The drawback to the Sports Arena is its proximity to USC, UCLA's archrival. The Trojans played home games there from 1959 until the Galen Center opened in 2006. But survey results showed that the vast majority of fans wanted the games to remain in the Los Angeles area, the school's statement said. UCLA's Feb. 15, 2012 game against USC will be at the Sports Arena.
UCLA, however, also has some history at the Sports Arena. The Bruins played there from 1959-65 before Pauley Pavilion opened for the 1965-66 season. The Bruins won their first two NCAA basketball championships while calling the Sports Arena home and also won titles in 1968 and 1972 when the Final Four took place at the Sports Arena.
The four games to be played at the Honda Center include Pac-12 matchups against Arizona and Arizona State on Jan. 5 and Jan. 7, 2012. The Jan. 5 game against Arizona has been designated this season's Wooden Classic, though no other teams are scheduled to play in it.
Home schedule highlights include Texas and Richmond on Dec. 2 and Dec. 23, respectively. Among the notable road games are the Maui Invitational Nov. 21-23 and at St. John's Feb. 18.
Peter Yoon covers UCLA for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.