Saturday, February 07, 2009

Oregon's Mathew Knight Arena Groundbreaking Draws Stars

They have been digging for weeks (I have been watching on the web cam) but today the University of Oregon had the official groundbreaking ceremony at the site of the new Basketball Arena which will replace Mac Court. The big news at the event was the announcement Athletic Director, Pat Kilkenny, will be donating 5 million dollars toward the cost of the arena and they will name the playing surface for him. A number of celebrities were at the event; former Oregon QB Dennis Dixon with his Super Bowl ring (he is with the Pittsburgh Steelers), Ahmad Rashad, Rear Adm. John Dick who was on the the 1939 UO national championship team in basketball,university president Dave Frohnmayer, men's basketball coach Ernie Kent, and Phil Knight with the widow and children of Mathew Knight, his deceased son, for whom the Arena will be named.

To read the Oregonian's story on the ceremony click on the title for a link.

Oregon fans owe a lot to President Dave Frohnmayer, AD Pat Kilkenny, Assistant AD Jim Bartko, and to Phil Knight. Without their tremendous efforts this would not have happened. As has been recorded on this blog there have been many roadblocks on the path to construction of the arena. It's fitting that the Oregonian's Rachel Bachman, a major critic of the project, was there today to report on the ceremony.

UPDATE: Press release from the Oregon Athletic Department:

Beneath a winter sky and before a crowd of community and civic supporters, donors, faculty and staff, University of Oregon President Dave Frohnmayer, UO Athletics Director Pat Kilkenny, and Nike Founder Phil Knight planted commemorative shovels in the ground to officially mark the start of construction of the new Matthew Knight Arena.

Work to move approximately 351,000 cubic yards of dirt began a week ago; however, crews stopped today to celebrate the road from Mac Court to Matt Court, the latter nickname bestowed on the new 12,500-seat arena named after Phil and Penny Knight’s late son, Matthew.

“Putting our shovels to the ground today is a gesture of thanks to everyone who understands what the Matthew Knight Arena means to us,” said Frohnmayer. “This ceremony is, in particular, a thanks to Phil and Penny Knight and others who understood that hopes must be connected to reality, in this case a beautiful new arena that can serve as a site for those hopes.” The Knights donated a lead gift of $100 million to the Legacy Fund, a fund designed to help move the athletic department from a self-supporting division of the university to a self-sustaining division.

It was also a day to recognize another generous donation to the University of Oregon from Pat Kilkenny and his family. In recognition of the $5 million gift to the arena project, Frohnmayer announced that the arena’s court will be named “Kilkenny Court.”

Kilkenny’s family was in attendance for the event, including his wife, Stephanie, his father, Bob, and stepmoth-er, Eva. “This donation moves this project forward,” said Frohnmayer. “It is an example of the community-wide giving that has brought us to this ground today and sets a wonderful tone for the future success of this arena,”

Frohnmayer emphasized the economic benefits to the community and region in his remarks, citing a conservative estimate that the $200 million spent on construction will reap 1.5 to 2 times that amount in local economic activity. Additional personnel needed to run the new arena will create $829,000 annually in new local salaries.

Retired Navy Rear Adm. John Dick, the last living starter from the very first NCAA National Basketball Cham-pionship team – the 1939 UO men’s basketball team -- was a special guest at today’s event. Dick played in McArthur Court, along with other members of the “Tall Firs,” when the building was barely more than a decade old.

Activities related to the groundbreaking are planned for the men’s basketball game, scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m. in McArthur Court. The UO Ducks are hosting the Arizona Wildcats; Frohnmayer, Kilkenny and Knight will participate in a pre-game ceremonial tip-off.

More details about the arena, including the seating plan, ticket pricing and the timeline for selecting and pur-chasing tickets are available online at, the Web site devoted exclusively to the arena.