USC hoops, volleyball set to open long-awaited arena
LOS ANGELES -- Southern California finally has an on-campus home to call its own.
The Trojans haven't played a game there yet, but it's already a source of pride.
"We are [proud], very definitely," senior associate athletic director Carol Dougherty said Tuesday while supervising a tour of the Galen Center, which hosts its first event Wednesday night when the unbeaten USC women's volleyball team faces Stanford.
The USC men's and women's basketball and volleyball teams will play at the new arena.
"We are still a little bit dirty, slinging things in every direction and trying to get things cleaned up," Dougherty said as she guided reporters through the complex while dozens of workers kept busy on numerous projects. "The basketball floor is down. The volleyball floor arrived from Germany."
The USC men's basketball team plays its first game at the 10,258-seat arena Nov. 16 against South Carolina. The USC women meet Long Beach State in their Galen Center debut six days earlier.
The Trojans' men, often overshadowed by crosstown rival UCLA, played mostly at the Los Angeles Sports Arena since 1959. At times, when the circus came to town or other events were scheduled at the dank, old building, USC was forced to play elsewhere.
It was far from an ideal situation, and the program suffered. But now that they have their own facility and a proven coach in Tim Floyd, it's reasonable to expect the Trojans will be a consistent contender in the Pac-10 within the next few years.
Dougherty said recruiting has been impacted positively by the new facility for quite some time.
"We have brought recruits for each of the four sports here. The vast majority have committed to USC while they've been here," she said. "These are verbal commitments -- kids can change their minds. But that's very impressive.
"To have all of this here and to be able to bring the recruits here have proven to be exactly what we were hoping -- a real enticement to high school kids to come here. They're just blown away. We started shortly after groundbreaking."
That was on Oct. 30, 2003 -- nearly four years after the athletic department received permission to begin fundraising for the project.
"It's almost exactly seven long years," Dougherty said, adding that the delays caused "total frustration."
"I think it's fair to say they were all financial," she said, explaining it was difficult to convince people to donate before ground had been broken.
The 295,000-square foot facility is made up of the arena that also houses separate locker rooms for the four USC teams along with visitors' locker rooms, and an adjoining pavilion with practice courts for the four teams along with administrative and coaches offices, a media workroom and an auditorium for press conferences.
Dougherty placed the cost of the arena at over $100 million compared to an original estimate of $70 million. She declined to give the cost of the entire project.
Sports Information director Tim Tessalone said around 5,100 season tickets have already been sold for men's basketball games, including the student section. That compares to a total of 2,100 at the Sports Arena last season.
"There's still another month to go," Tessalone said. "We hope to sell a lot more."
There are about 2,000 seats at the new arena allocated for students.
Dougherty said a number of community events including numerous children's shows are planned at the arena, along with an array of concerts.
"An Evening With Al Green," scheduled Oct. 21, is being billed as the grand opening.
Dougherty assured reporters that most everything will be completed by the end of the month.
"There will be little things we'll want spiffed up after that," she said.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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