Monday, November 30, 2009

Mac Court (Eugene, Oregon) Road Trip

McArthur Court (aka "Mac Court", aka "The Pit") in Eugene, Oregon, has been the home of the Oregon Ducks basketball program since it opened in 1926, and is one of the most distinctive basketball venues in the country.

This is likely to be the last full season of Oregon basketball at Mac Court, as the new Matthew Knight Arena (named for the late son of Nike founder/Oregon alum Phil Knight) is scheduled to open in December, 2010.

We took our first trip to Mac Court in February for last season's Oregon-Arizona game, and it was a hoophead's delight - a true old-school field house/barn of a venue which was called the "Best Gym in America" by Sporting News back in 2001 with reason.

With the final full season at Mac Court getting under way, we thought it was a good time to run a photo post detailing our road trip. In short, if you love the game and can get to Eugene before Mac Court closes, we highly recommend that you do so - it's an increasingly rare breed of a basketball experience.

OK, here we go. We didn't get a good external shot, so this scene-setter is from Wikipedia; all other photos are ours (please click for larger images). Surprisingly, the University of Oregon is home to three of the more distinctive sports venues in America, all in close proximity: Mac Court; Hayward Field, the most hallowed ground of American track & field, which is nearly adjacent; and Autzen Stadium, generally considered to be one of the better, and louder, places to watch college football, which is about a mile and a half away.

Mac Court consists of three decks of seats stacked right on top of one another, which provides the feel that fans are directly on top of the court. We started in the lower deck, which offered a view that was great for the game, but somewhat claustrophobic, what with the second deck hovering directly above us and cutting off much of the building from our sight:

Honestly, when we got up and walked around at halftime, and saw everything in the next photo, it was like a revelation - had no idea that anything above what's visible in the picture above was there for the whole first half:

Oregon was horrendous last season, just 2-16 in the Pac-10, so Mac Court was only half-full by February, which led to a good news/bad news situation: we didn't get the full feel of "The Pit", with the place rocking, but we did have free access to move around and check out different areas of the building.

At the beginning of the second half, we went up to the third deck, which featured this rather odd section of wooden seats, perched at a very steep angle. Two views for you:

We're betting that this sign, up near the wooden seats, was posted when the building opened in 1926:

In general, we think the coolest part of the whole experience was being up in the upper deck, looking straight down at the court. Did we mention that it was steep?:

And an end zone view from up top, up amidst the banners:

Midway through the second half, we moved down to try out the second deck, and we have to say that we preferred when Arizona ran its offense to the left...:

This next one might be our favorite photo, as we managed to capture both an example of the desk lamps used for lighting in the second deck, and also then-freshman Oregon center Michael Dunigan in mid-dunk. Dunigan, a former McDonald's All-American, displayed impressive physical gifts in producing 9 pts, 6 reb, 2 stl, 1 blk in 25 minutes (Draft Express profile). For what it's worth, Arizona won the game 87-77, as its two current NBA players, Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill, combined for 49 points.

Here's a view from court level, postgame. We're idiots for not properly framing the 1939 national championship banner, which is in the upper-left of the photo:

Here's our dilemma: as much as we absolutely loved the Mac Court experience, and highly recommend it, and want to retain the experience somehow... we can understand how it's really hard to argue that this is a venue suited for the modern era, and unfortunately, it's hard to envision how it'd be possible to renovate it into one.

Here's a view of a main corridor, outside (under, that is) the lower deck. While talking at halftime in this corridor with others who were attending the game with us, some soda dripped through the lower deck directly onto the cheek of one of my cohort. Moderately disturbing.

We're sure that Oregon basketball games will lose a great deal of charm in the new arena, but we're not really sure what another remedy could be, other than trying to build a retro-feeling building a la Conseco Field House. It does appear that the new arena has a steep slope to its seats, at least, and that's always a good thing.

That said, at Mac Court, we loved that equipment like this was just sitting around and apparently being stored in the main corridor. Wanted to take it out on the court postgame and do some shooting drills:

And there you have it. Hopefully we've conveyed at least a little bit of what is one of the truly unique and charming experiences for watching big-time basketball. If you're a hoop fan, don't think twice about making the pilgrimage to Eugene before Mac Court closes - just do it. Or something like that.


At 8:40 AM, Blogger aneebaba said...

I've never been to Mac court, sadly, even though I am an Oregonian (Portland), but great pics and nice to see Oregon (in general) get attention (what can I say, it's my civic pride). Eww, that soda dripping from above is, indeed quite disturbing.

At 1:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 11:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

See videos of the inside of the new arena here:

At 11:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 9:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 2:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was at UO from '94-98 and the basketball program was just hitting its stride. We could surprise anyone and this place was the absolute best place to watch it happen. UCLA with the O'Bannons was particularly gratifying with the crowd chanting CBA every time Ed got the ball.

At 12:48 PM, Blogger ejmwolf said...

Thank you for this wonderful tribute to Mac Court. It is sad to see it go, but it is also true that, as a modern basketball venue, it is inadequate. I am biased towards Mac Court, though, and can only hope that the new 'Matt Court' will live up to the legacy of Mac Court.

When I was a student attending games in the 1970's, Mac Court was an awesome experience. The place literally rocked, the atmospehere electric. That was during the Dick Harter years when the Ducks were known as the 'Kamikaze Kids' (at Harter's insistence).

There will never be another MAc Court, and I will always cherish the memories created there. Thank you so much, again, for this photo tribute.


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