Eugene Weekly : Viewpoint : 3.25.10

On the Defense
There was no need to abandon Mac Court
By Jonathan Bowers

Earlier this month marked the final PAC-10 home games, tentatively, at McArthur Court. I feel I have to comment on this beloved institution, not because of what I had done, legally, to preserve it from being replaced but because of what seeing games at this institution has meant to me — especially since I’ll be studying abroad and unable to see any more games at McArthur Court beyond this past season.

My fascination with college basketball began while I worked as a dishwasher at a local bakery in Austin, Texas. My co-workers, while not University of Texas Longhorn fans, were, nevertheless, college basketball fans. I watched my first March Madness that year and loved it. Hanging out with them, eating, drinking, and watching college basketball was life, as simple as it can get.

 Then, starting in the fall of 2006, I went to my first UO men’s basketball games, highlighted by a nail-biting win over then #1 UCLA and dominant play not only in the PAC-10 Tournament but also a run through the NCAA Tournament, only to lose to the defending champions.

In the seasons to follow, school permitting, I attended as many games as possible at McArthur Court: to watch our teams play and to sit in a hallowed college basketball institution.

Looking back on why I fought to preserve McArthur Court, it didn’t seem to matter that, just weeks before a new arena was announced in the summer of 2007, the UO Planning Office had updated a 2006 survey of McArthur Court in its Campus Heritage Landscape Plan, which concluded, in an available public record, that the arena receive “Primary Ranking,” a category that shows a building has a “high level of historic significance and excellent or good integrity” and likely to be eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

Or that it didn’t matter that McArthur Court was one of only six Division I men’s basketball arenas still in use today, one of which is a National Historic Landmark, built between 1926 and 1928.

Or that it didn’t matter that former UO President Dave Frohnmayer, speaking to the Oregon State Board of Higher Education of his reasoning to replace McArthur Court, stated, according to the meeting minutes: “I’m representing a personal view. McArthur Court has outlived its usefulness.”

Of course, I wasn’t blind to the criticisms this historic arena had received from various members of the Oregon community and press, including Phil Knight, former UO athletic director Pat Kilkenny, and George Schroeder, a Register-Guard opinion writer. However, none of what they said synched with the conclusions the UO Planning Office or the five other Division I schools had reached: Their respective arenas are worth it to spend millions of dollars, if spending is needed, on renovations and upgrades to bring them up to modern standards. Proof showing that McArthur Court was in need of replacement was never given.            

I’ll admit, I’m bitter. Even to this day, I still feel that McArthur Court didn’t need to be replaced. I believed it so much that I was willing to risk taking the fight to the U.S. Supreme Court. I honestly believe that the UO made a mistake when they decided to replace our old basketball arena.

If there were any justice at all, an apology to the community from those responsible for McArthur Court’s replacement would be forthcoming. Unfortunately, and sadly, I doubt this will occur.

Jonathan Bowers is a graduate student in the UO School of Journalism and Communication. Back in September 2008, he paid $650 to file an appeal with the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals, objecting to the Eugene City Council’s approval of vacating a city alley for construction of the new basketball stadium.