McKale Memorial Center
The opening of McKale Memorial Center in February of 1973 marked a new era in Wildcat basketball. After playing several games in front of crowds of a few thousand in Bear Down Gym to open the 1972-73 season, the team moved to McKale and literally filled the upscale arena overnight with crowds over 11,000 from the beginning.
Named after the late J.F. "Pop" McKale, athletic director and coach from 1914 to 1957, the facility is just part of a series of showcase athletic facilities located on the extreme eastern edge of campus. It is situated off the UA mall, adjacent to Arizona Stadium, baseball's Sancet Field and the Hillenbrand Aquatic Center. McKale houses the offices for the entire athletic department and is currently undergoing a renovation that will add a state-of-the-art weight room and Hall of Champions to the north end of the building.
Following the Arizona State game on February 26, 2000, the University of Arizona athletic department honored head coach Lute Olson with a ceremony to name the McKale Center floor, "Lute Olson Court". Then, during a memorial service in January of 2001 for Olson's late wife, Bobbi, it was renamed, "Lute and Bobbi Olson Court" in recognition of the couple's impact on the university and the city of Tucson. Olson has led seven teams to undefeated seasons at home, and Arizona has led the Pac-10 in attendance every year since 1984-85.
Part of the attraction for fans is the winning tradition that was quickly established in McKale. Arizona defeated WAC rival Wyoming, 87-69, in the first varsity event on Feb. 1, 1973, and went on to win 67 of the first 70 contests in McKale. Then, from 1987-1992, Arizona put together the tenth-best home court winning streak in NCAA history, winning 71 consecutive games in McKale and making tickets nearly impossible to find. By the time UCLA snapped the string on Jan. 11, 1992 with an 89-87 upset of the Cats, there was rarely an empty seat in McKale for any game.
That tradition keeps growing as Arizona teams continue to win games in front of sell-out crowds. UA has won 240 of its last 261 home games, including 200 of the last 213, and has an overall record of 352-65 in McKale, for a winning percentage of .846. Since the national championship season of 1996-97, Arizona has a record of 71-4 in McKale, with two of those losses coming during the 2000-01 campaign.
The seating capacity has fluctuated through the 27 years of the buildings existence. McKale opened in 1973 with a capacity of 13,658, but the installation of chair-back seating in 1984 reduced that figure to 13,316. Elimination of all bleacher seating dropped the level to 13,124 in 1986 before additional seats were added in the period from 1988 to 2000 that pushed capacity to its current 14,545. The largest crowd in McKale history was the 15,176 who watched Arizona face New Mexico on Jan. 14, 1976. The largest crowd in the Lute Olson era showed up for the 1997-98 home opener against Morgan State (14,672), the first home game after Arizona's national championship run.
Since its initial construction at a cost of $8.1 million in 1973, McKale Center has undergone numerous face lifts to keep up with the times. Sophisticated computerized message boards spanning the upper deck on both sides of the court, along with padded press row and officials' tables with computer-drive scoreboards were added in the early 1990s. The 1992 season saw the installation of four huge video replay screens in each corner of the arena. At the conclusion of the 1997-98 campaign, a state-of-the-art playing surface replaced the old floor that had been in place since 1983.
The 2001-2002 season saw new changes as well. A new four-sided scoreboard with video replay screens was installed and hung from the center of the arena, ensuring that once again it meets the standard as one of the finest facilities in the country.
McKale's reputation has attracted several major national sports events. It was the site for the NCAA Wrestling West Regionals in 1974 and 1980, and hosted the NCAA Wrestling Championships in 1976. More recently, McKale was a site for NCAA first and second round basketball action in 1979, 1987, 1989, 1991, 1997 and 2000. In addition, the USA Basketball Team trained in the arena prior to capturing the 1986 World Championships, and Arizona played host to the second Pac-10 Conference tournament in 1988.
The facility is 428 feet long, 339 feet wide and 77 feet from the floor to parapet, and houses the entire off-field operations of the University's athletic department, as well as an exercise sciences lab and a suite of 20-plus office labs for the Optical Sciences department. With three levels that consist of equipment rooms, a training and rehabilitation center, locker rooms, storage areas, ticket operations, academic services, computer lab facilities and administrative offices, McKale Center is the primary gathering place for all of UA athletics.
Vital Stats - McKale Center
McKale Center's Largest Crowds
McKale Center's Largest Crowds During the Lute Olson Era (1983-2001)
Yearly Attendance & Record in McKale Center
# Full Capacity
* Led the Pac-10/Pac-12 in attendance
% Figure includes three home games during the Pac-10 Tournament
$ McKale Center opened Feb. 1, 1973 with five home dates during the 1972-73 season
+ 11 victories were vacated due to NCAA infractions. Actual on-court record was 11-6. Facility win/loss record and winning percentage reflects those vacated victories.