SBD/January 14, 2011/Facilities

Univ. of Oregon's Matthew Knight Arena Makes Raucous Debut

Opening night at the Univ. of Oregon's $227M, 12,364-seat Matthew Knight Arena Thursday "produced lots of excitement -- and that was even before" UO defeated USC 68-62, according to Greg Bolt of the Eugene REGISTER-GUARD. Prior to the game, UO "put on a half-hour spectacle to christen the pavilion, complete with towering jets of flame, green and yellow sparks and firecracker bangs." Additionally, the "roomier seats, wider concourses, copious bathrooms and food stands produced smiles all through the building." A "glitch with the scoreboard during the game's first 10 minutes was about the only visible stumble." Nike Chair Phil Knight "drew the arena's first standing ovation when he strode to center court under a bright spotlight, microphone in hand, to address the crowd before the opening night festivities got under way." The building is named for Knight's late son, and he said, "I've just got to believe Matt's looking down as pleased, as my grandmother would say, as pleased as punch." Bolt notes Knight's $100M gift "to establish the UO athletics department's Legacy Fund ... put the long-sought arena project on track." Knight, "in what might have been his longest public appearance in recent memory," said, "This building for me isn't just cement and glass and hardwood and concrete. There's emotion in this building, and I hope it carries forward. But I hope the main emotion that carries forward is joy" (Eugene REGISTER-GUARD, 1/14).

MAINTAINING THE SAME VIBE: FSN's Steve Physioc noted it is "amazing" how designers "held onto the same charm and intimacy" at Matthew Knight Arena that existed at 84-year-old McArthur Court. FSN's Marques Johnson said, "That was the challenge for the designers to maintain that intimidating intimacy of Mac Court while creating the most spectacular basketball edifice in all of college sports. They have accomplished that goal." Physioc said Phil Knight and former Oregon AD Pat Kilkenny "wanted to make sure they kept that same college basketball atmosphere here." Johnson: "They did a great job. You see there's no suites up top, the wine-and-cheese crowd overlooking the court, none of that here. The student section ... has a 36-degree slope, as high and as steep as the building codes would allow. This is a lot like McArthur Court. Even better." Johnson later noted the arena "is an energy infuser for this program," and Oregon basketball is "going to be a very, very substantial program in the Pac-10 for many, many years to come." Johnson: "They've got Phil Knight to thank for that." Pac-10 Commissioner Larry Scott said it is "exciting for the Pac-10 to have such an iconic new venue," and it is a "real shot in the arm for the university" ("USC-Oregon," FSN, 1/13).

SOME KINKS TO WORK OUT: In Portland, Kerry Eggers writes it is "hard not to like a cutting-edge facility such as Knight," as the "inside configuration is suberb, and with its vertical layout, there doesn't appear to be a bad seat in the house." However, there appear to be a "lot of bugs to work out," and the designers "dropped the ball entirely" in some cases. The midcourt line "needs to be repainted so it can actually be seen," as it "isn't visible from media seating." The video screen on the scoreboard "is spectacularly good, but the words on the adjoining reader board below it are too small to be viewed from mid-arena and up." Eggers: "The concourses are spacey on the ends but too tight on the sides of the arena. At halftime, there was a huge line at some concession stands and to enter one men's room" (PORTLAND TRIBUNE, 1/14). In Eugene, George Schroeder writes the arena is "spectacular" and is "everything anyone could have wanted." Still, Thursday night's game was a "dry run," and "most of the time, it was fairly quiet -- fans seemed almost distracted by their new environs." There also are bugs that "must be worked out." For "several minutes during the first half, the scoreboard did not work," as the clock "showed 42:33 remaining and the score remained stuck at 0-0." The sound system is "very good," but it is also "very loud." And the "strange 'Deep In The Woods' motif" on the court "works in person, even if it doesn't translate quite so well on TV" (Eugene REGISTER-GUARD, 1/14).

NOT A PLEASANT TV VIEWING EXPERIENCE: Thursday night's game was broadcast by FSN, and YAHOO SPORTS' Jeff Eisenberg writes the "iridescent ribbon board lining the upper level" of the arena produced a "headache-inducing glare" for TV viewers. There was a "blinding reflection visible throughout" the game, and the fact that the ribbon board "changed color from white to yellow to green to blue every few seconds ... made watching the game feel like staring into a strobe light." Eisenberg notes complaints over the glare "actually overshadowed reaction to the unveiling" of the court. Meanwhile, viewers also were "unhappy with the camouflage mid-court strip and three-point lines," as "in its zeal to protect the integrity of its flashy design, it seems Nike neglected functionality by not creating enough contrast for a television audience to view any of those lines" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/14). ESPN’s Andy Katz wrote on his Twitter feed, “Did they test this court on television with the lights on at Oregon? Should I adjust the set to compensate for the brightness?” TrinityOne President & CEO Lou Imbriano wrote, “I love creative aspects in sports, but this Oregon hoops court is just way to distracting. They obviously didn't TV test it.” Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy: "That is just hideous. Glad this game is not in HD.” Boston Globe reporter Gary Washburn: “This new Oregon court is hurting my eyes, way over the top for a bad team.”

COURT OF PUBLIC APPEAL? The unique court design at Matthew Knight Arena continues to draw some criticism, as ESPN's Josh Elliott said the Tall Furs design is a "bad look." ESPN's Herm Edwards added, "They ran out of paint." Elliott: "They spent $200 million and they couldn't finish." ESPN's Robert Flores said the court "sort of looked like an Etch A Sketch had been shaken up a little bit." Elliott asked, "Blue turf or that: What was worse?" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 1/14).

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