New UO Knight Arena
Bids to be Nation's Finest
By Fred Delkin
We just attended an unveiling of the details being installed in the Matthew Knight Arena
now under construction in Eugene to replace the University of Oregon's storied but antique
McArthur Court. This $200 million palace intends to open in 2011 as the finest on-campus
basketball facility in the nation. It will undoubtedly be the most expensive, but UO officialdom
points out that financing has been secured through state-backed 30-year bonds. This latest
upgrade for Duck athletic facilities is being built alongside Franklin Boulevard, adjacent to
Autzen Stadium and the new Duck baseball park. It carries the name of Nike founder and major
Duck donor Phil Knight's son, who died at the age of 34 in a scuba diving accident.
It has a big "Wow!" factor created by the architectural team of TVA and Ellerbe Becket, who
studied arenas across the U.S. and the wonders of the "Bird Cage" arena erected in Beijing,
China for the recent Olympic Games. It will seat 12,541 fans and include a pair of donor club
facilities and an adjacent basketball/volleyball practice arena. It is built above an underground
parking facility for 500 vehicles.
Ground was broken 2/7/09 for this ambitious project whose exterior is completed and which is
scheduled to open with the start of the next Pac10 basketball schedule in January 2011. The
basketball playing surface is sunken below two tiers of seating to amplify the sound level during
play. All seats are padded, extrawide and have backs and cupholders. There will be elevators for
access to the upper terrace level, and no less than 22 restrooms will be in sharp contrast to the
mere four that grace ol' McArthur. Concession counters number 45, with frequently changing
menus. The McArthur and Founders clubs are behind seating on the lower level and will offer
separate food & beverage (including alcohol) service to the UO athletic donors in attendance.
While this project bodes very well for the future of Duck basketball, the present state of the
men's program is a disaster. Coach Ernie Kent may not be around for the grand opening next
year, with his last two squads sporting a 4-21 record to date in Pac10 play. Kent's earlier seasons
as Duck mentor racked up a pair of NCAA national Elite Eight tournament appearances, but the
bloom has faded badly in recent seasons. Kent's squads have achieved notable Division 1
academic success, but lack of wins and the youngest team in the Pac10 have proved a detriment
at the gate. The new Knight Arena will need sellout attendance to justify the investment.
© 2010 Oregon Magazine