Sure, $200 million may be the most expensive college basketball arena in the nation. And, yeah, the no-bid process that took place when the project went from fully private funds to partial public bond funding may be enough to raise a few eyebrows. But, hey, that new graphic-laden basketball floor at the University of Oregon’s new Matthew Knight Arena (set to open for Pac-10 play in January 2011) is the craziest floor you’ve ever seen. Ever.
Being originally from Oregon, I get a bit biased. And while I wear Adidas too, you can’t overlook the fact that Nike operates like a small country. And the University of Oregon is its jurisdiction. Therein lies the root of both the funding question and the crazy floor. I mean really crazy.
Let’s talk floor first. After a public unveiling a few days ago, reaction is mixed—as always with Oregon projects—on the design that frames a representation of a view from beneath a forest of fir trees. The court also boasts logos designed for the namesake of the building, Matthew Knight, the late son of Nike founder Phil Knight, and Pat Kilkenny, who the floor is named after.
Kilkenny, a longtime supporter of the university who also served as the school’s director of athletics, has graphical elements that “pay respect to (him) by telling their story in a classy and subdues series of three symbolic graphics,” according to Tinker Hatfield, vice president for design and special projects for Nike and the designer of the floor. First off, I’ve never heard the words “classy” or “subdued” describe anything related to the University of Oregon. And second, well, I’m just still blown away by the floor that I don’t really have a second.
One graphic depicts Morrow County and Heppner, Ore., where Kilkenny grew up. Another symbolizes his education at Oregon with the 1970s interlocking logo adorned with three shamrocks to also represent his “very green and very Irish heritage.” The third graphic symbolizes the beach and sunset of San Diego, where he became a businessman and now resides.
But the 6,944 square feet of Northern Hard Maple (FSC certified) floor is but a drop in the bucket of the $200 million, 12,500-seat campus arena. Replacing the vintage 1927 McArthur Court, Hoffman Construction is building the TVA Architects-designed 405,000-sq.ft. arena in the spirit of “The Pit” (the affectionate name for Mac Court).
The new LEED-Silver (targeted) construction sits at one of the gateways to campus, so the metal and glass exterior matches more closely with the recent Jaqua Center building than the rest of campus. And within the new arena, visitors can expect 22 restrooms, eight elevators, 45 concession stands, 201 flat-screen televisions and a massive video board. You wouldn’t expect anything less from a Nike project, would you? But, just like at Mac Court, the compact design has fans feeling on top of the action.
Originally developed as a privately funded project, it was transferred to 30-year public bonds to be paid back with arena revenues and a $100 million pledge from Knight. The state signed off on letting Nike’s lawyer select the architect and contractor and an effort has been on for full disclosure on the building’s contracts. Oregon says it doesn’t mind a full audit and the legal wrangling continues.
With that question aside, the new structure will once again put Oregon athletics—behind the funding of Knight—on the national stage. And just like the slogan painted on the basketball floor, it will also put opponents “Deep in the Woods.”