Friday, February 17, 2006

Bruins Bid Farewell To L.A. Sports Arena

By Bruin Basketball Report

Over the years UCLA basketball teams have amassed 105 victories while playing at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. UCLA also won two of their NCAA basketball championships at the venue.

But when the Bruins face the Trojans on Sunday for the 133rd time at the Sports Arena, they will be bidding farewell to the historic L.A. landmark.

After 47 years at the Sports Arena, the USC basketball team will be moving to a brand new state of the art arena, the Galen Center, in the Fall of 2006.

There was once a time when the Sports Arena was held in similar esteem; it was considered by many to be the most modern arena in the country at the time of its construction.

On April 29, 1955 California Governor Goodwin T. Knight signed legislation authorizing the sale of $8,200,000 in revenue bonds to finance the building of the Sports Arena in the burgeoning city of Los Angeles.

Three years later $7,800,000 in revenue bonds were sold, and plans for constuction began in earnest.

The L.E. Dixon Company of San Gabriel, the original contractor for the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, was awarded the building contract for the Sports Arena. Official ground-breaking ceremonies commenced on April 7, 1958.

A little over a year later, the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena was officially dedicated on July 4th, 1959.

Vice President Richard M. Nixon represented President Dwight D. Eisenhower at the festivities. Nixon dedicated the Sports Arena in "recognition of all who served their country in all wars."

The 1960 Democratic Convention was held at the Sports Arena due to its state of the art facilities at the time. It was at this convention that John F. Kennedy secured his party's nomination for president.

The Rev. Martin Luther King orated here; and the Dalai Lama addressed his followers from a stage at the Sports Arena.

The Rolling Stones rocked here; so did Pink Floyd, the Who, and of course, the Boss – Bruce Springsteen played at the Sports Arena 25 times over a 12 year span.

The first basketball game ever played at the Sports Arena was on December 1, 1959 when UCLA played USC before a crowd of 6,880. The Bruins won the game 47-45.

From 1959 to 1965 the Bruins played home games at the Sports Arena (they also played home games at the Men's Gym, Venice High School and Civic Auditorium during this period).

The Sports Arena was the site of the 1968 and 1972 NCAA men’s basketball Final Four.

In the 1968 Final Four, UCLA played the Houston Cougars in a semifinal game. Earlier in the season, the No. 2 Cougars had upset the No. 1 Bruins at the Astrodome, 71-69. Houston’s Elvin Hayes had outplayed UCLA’s Lew Alcindor who had played in the game despite suffering blurred vision from a scratched eye.

In this game at the Sports Arena, the Bruins got their revenge. UCLA's Lynn Shackelford shadowed Hayes the entire game limiting him to only 10 points. Meanwhile, Alcindor, Mike Lynn, and Lucius Allen each scored 19 points as the Bruins routed the Cougars, 101-69.

In the anti-climactic championship game, UCLA crushed North Carolina, 78-55, with Alcindor pouring in 34 points.

In the 1972 Final Four, UCLA faced Denny Crum's Louisville team in the semifinal game and defeated them, 96-77. Bruin sophomore center Bill Walton scored 33 points to lead the team.

In the championship finale, sophomore forward Keith Wilkes scored 23 and Walton added 24 to help the Bruins to an 81-76 victory over Florida State for UCLA's eighth NCAA championship banner.

However as time passes, even buildings age. In comparison to modern sport venues, the Sports Arena is vastly outdated and has not aged gracefully.

Important speakers no longer visit the Sports Arena, nor do rockers – not even the Boss, he goes to the Staples Center for his concerts now.

When asked for his opinion of the Sports Arena, former NBA player Charles Barkley responded, “This place? Nothing positive. Ok, I want to say something positive – it’s positively a dump!”

The circus still sets up at the Sports Arena when it comes to town, and Disney holds a few ice skating shows there each year. But with the Trojans leaving for their new arena in the fall, the Sports Arena’s future is uncertain.

But there is still a rivalry game to be played on Sunday.

The Bruins will face the Trojans one last time, in one last game, at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena.

UCLA will try to record win No. 106 for the history books.


(photo credit:


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