The McKale Center in Tucson, Arizona is home to the University of Arizona Wildcats basketball team, and is without question one of the most dynamic venues in the Pac-12 Conference, and the entire country. The future looks bright for the Wildcats, and a renovation of the famed venue is moving into high gear during the summer months.
The Mckale Center, located at 1 National Championship Drive on the campus of Arizona, was built from 1970-1973 at a cost of $8,145,077, and named after J.F. “Pop” McKale. “Pop” McKale was the team’s head basketball coach from 1914-1921, and remained part of the athletic department from 1914-1951. The current setup seats 14,545 people, and the updates will boast all new seating, a new floor, updated concession stands and restrooms.
For 41 years the Mckale Center has been home to the Wildcats, but it was not until 1983 when head coach, Lute Olson moved to the desert and turned the basketball team into a national powerhouse. It did not hurt that some of the first players ever recruited by Olson at Arizona included future standouts, Steve Kerr, Sean Elliott, and future MLB star, Kenny Lofton. Olson was able to turn McKale into one of the most feared venues in the Pac-12 for opposing teams as the Wildcats went on one of the best runs in college basketball history, making 25 straight NCAA appearances. The Mckale Center was sold-out each night, and throughout the years, players like Bob Elliot, Steve Kerr, Sean Elliott, Chris Mills, Mike Bibby, Miles Simon, Damon Stoudamire, Jason Terry, Luke Walton, Andre Igoudala, Derrick Williams, Nick Johnson and others have graced the floor of the McKale Center.
In 2000, the court was officially named “Lute Olson Court,” and was changed one year later in 2001 following the death of Lute Olson’s wife Bobbi. It was officially changed to “Lute and Bobbi Olson Court,” as it remains today.
The entire renovation is hoped to be finished by this coming fall, just in time for the start of the NCAA basketball season. Every seat in the lower bowl will be replaced with blue seats, replacing the tiered red and blue ones that have filled the arena. The $80 million extended renovation was approved by the Arizona Board of Regents in December of 2012, and once everything is complete, it should include a club area, luxury seating and athletic offices.
The Arizona Wildcats men’s basketball team lost a couple of key components to their Elite 8 run from this past year’s tournament, including Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson. But there is no need for concern for the Wildcat faithful, as the future continues to look bright. They look to return key components that will include T.J McConnell, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Kaleb Tarcewski. They also look to get Brandon Ashley back from a foot injury, who was a huge loss for them this past season. On top of returning the key components, they also bring in one of the most highly touted freshmen in the country, Stanley Johnson from Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, California.
There are more high expectations for the Wildcats moving forward as they look primed to be a top five pre-season team. Along with the old traditions that pump life into the McKale Center, new blood and a new look will have the Arizona Wildcats buzzing come basketball season.
Commentary by JohnnyCaito