OR – On a cold, foggy night in Eugene, Oregon, fans stream into one of the
oldest arenas in college basketball. As they enter the arena with
anticipation of some great college basketball and getting out of the cold,
their eyes lit up and smiles abound. The fans talk to each other as they
climb the old stairs and make their way to their seats.
Tonight’s game matches
the Santa Clara Broncos from the WAC in a pre-conference showdown with the
hometown good guys, wearing green and white, the
Oregon Ducks of the PAC
But one of the major
stars in tonight’s contest is McArthur Court. The almost 79 year old home
of the Ducks. With a little over 1000 games contested within its walls,
almost anyone who has visited, will testify to the uniqueness of this
It is hard to describe,
but picture a triple-decked, that is………three decks above the floor seats,
classically architectured pavilion. They say from the outside, you can
easily hear the roar of the crowd. I want to point out that I am not sure
“architectured” is a word. But someone (the finger is pointed at Greg
Walker, the Duck’s basketball SID) in Oregon’s Sports Information
Department, came up with the suspect word and it conveys an image that
Tonight there are 7394
fans to witness this struggle of West Coast teams. But during a
conference game when the students are here, it is packed to the roof with
the deafening screams of over 9000 boisterous fans. The atmosphere is
electric. Overhead, the three balconies vibrate from the fans stomping
their feet and screaming, throw in the pep band and it might seem like the
structure might not hold up through the game. But it always does, just as
it had since it was built in 1926.
That is what it is like
to play in the second oldest venue in college basketball. The oldest is
Fordham’s Rose Hill Gym, which was built in 1926 and their first game was
played in Rose Hill that year also. McArthur Court, is better known to
fans as “The Pit.” There is probably no better place to play a college
basketball game. No opponent looks forward to playing in Mac Court. Fans
speak of it with reverence usually reserved for monuments and structures
in our nation’s capital.
Mac Court is named
after Clifton N. (Nat) McArthur, a student athlete and the first student
body president. It is described as the classic crown jewel of Oregon’s
athletic program. It deserves to be mentioned in the same breath at the
old NBA Boston Gardens, Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse, Minnesota’s Williams
Arena, Philly’s Palestra and Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Over the year’s it has
received all kinds of accolades. According to a recent poll, McArthur
Court was deemed as the PAC 10 visiting team’s least favorite place to
play. In 2001, The Sporting News named it “the best gym in America,” and
going back a few years, in 1995 Sports illustrated listed it as one of the
12 toughest places in the country to play at the collegiate level.
Of course, I have yet
to bestow any honors on Mac Court. I find it to be on par with William’s
Arena and Hinkle Fieldhouse as a structure. I think with the fans going
crazy, it gets up close to the level of Cameron in terms of atmosphere.
So here goes folks, I officially name McArthur Court one of the Top 5
Venues in American in which to watch a college basketball game.
Part of the atmosphere
is the fans. They are an integral part of the ambience. The students sit
at courtside or more accurately stand at courtside. The pep band sits at
one end of the court. As the fans file into Mac Court, the band is
playing and the students are beginning to stir. There is an anticipation
in the air that makes the atmosphere almost tingling.
Although it was built
in 1926, the first game was not played until January 14, 1927 when Oregon
beat Williamette 38-10 and it has since undergone numerous modifications
The Associated Students
of the University of Oregon decided to” tax ourselves to build what we
want,” and their desires included an indoor basketball arena. McArthur
Court was thus paid for out of a $15 fee imposed by the ASUO. During the
depths of the depression, the mortgage was burned in a public ceremony
after Mac Court was completely paid off.
Even with all the
tradition, McArthur Court is a fairly modern facility. The building has
undergone more than five million dollars in renovations over the last
decade. Oregon installed the maple floor used in the 1990 Goodwill games
in Seattle, which I might add, looks really sharp.
As great as McArthur
Court is as a basketball venue and historical building, the university is
looking to build a new arena. It makes me sad to think that this grand
building and link to a different era, will some day, no longer be used for
basketball. I am told there are architects attending this game with the
purpose of trying to find out what is so special about the design of this
place that gives it so much charm. They will be charged with designing a
new arena that captures the charm of Mac Court, while at the same time
adding the luxury suites, additional restrooms, concessions stands and
other amenities that today’s fans expect. I wish them good luck, because
no other school has managed to do that with a new arena. On the other
hand, I am not sure how many have tried.
Back to the action on
the court. The Ducks pull out a 75-66 win over pesky Santa Clara.
During the game that saw the Broncos fight until the end, the fans minus
most of the students, who are home on Christmas Break, made enough noise
at time to prevent me from talking to the gentleman seated next to me. It
was a one point lead 27-26 for the Ducks at the half. With a home court
win, the fans leave Mac Court smiling and chatting about the just
As I write this, I am
still seated at press row, an hour after the game has ended. The cleaning
crew is making good progress on cleaning up all the game garbage left by
fans, including quite a bit left by me.
I am just enjoying
sitting here looking around the gym. They will turn out the lights in a
few minutes and I may still be sitting here enjoying this unique
basketball shrine and dreaming of all the great games played here over the