Campus Guide: Your guide to notable UA sports facilities
McKale Center is home to men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball and gymnastics. McKale is under renovations and will have new seating, locker rooms, flooring and a new score board.
Editor’s note: This article is part of the Arizona Summer Wildcat’s 2014 Campus Guide. The Campus Guide is a special issue that runs every year to help introduce incoming students to the UA and campus life.
Just after turning 41, the hub of UA sports is undergoing an upgrade.
Last January, a new scoreboard for McKale Center featuring four 12 feet by 19 feet Panasonic video boards and two LED rings was unveiled to start the $80 million renovation where new seats and a new floor are being added and locker rooms, concessions and restrooms are being upgraded.
The arena, which opened in 1973, is named for J.F. “Pop” McKale, the UA’s athletic director from 1914 to 1957. The men’s basketball, indoor volleyball, gymnastics and women’s basketball teams play at McKale.
Men’s basketball enjoys a tremendous home court advantage: going undefeated at home in 2013-14 and having led the Pac-10/12 in attendance every year since 1984-85.
The north end of McKale Center features the Jim Click Hall of Champions, an Arizona athletics museum. The hall features everything from trophies to giant Sports Illustrated covers that featured Wildcats, and free schedule posters are available for UA sports.
Football’s new digs
Like McKale Center, the stadium once affectionately known as the “Old Gray Lady” also saw a facelift recently.
In 2011, the UA added a 112 feet by 47 feet video board to Arizona Stadium that ESPN ranked as the sixth best in the country. Last year, Arizona opened the Lowell-Stevens Football Facility, a $72.3 million addition that gave the football program a new locker room, new weight room, new luxury boxes and new seats, among other things.
Arizona Stadium, home of UA football, was built in 1928 and originally had 7,000 seats. Then the capacity was increased to 10,000 in 1938, 22,671 in 1950, 32,000 in 1965 and 49,000 in 1976. The current capacity is 56,037.
The stadium also houses the Steward Observatory Mirror Lab on the east side where components for telescopes are built, and two residence halls on the south side.
Baseball’s historic home
After playing before sparse crowds on campus, Arizona baseball moved to historic Hi Corbett Field in 2012 and saw an immediate reward.
Located a few miles away from campus in central Tucson, Hi Corbett Field was once home to the Cleveland Indians and Colorado Rockies’ spring training, the Triple-A Tucson Toros and USA Baseball, among other teams. Hi Corbett Field opened in 1927 and currently has 9,500 seats.
Hi Corbett Field instantly gave Arizona a home field advantage: the Wildcats won 30 games at home for the first time since 1989 and won the College World Series.
Dozens of baseball hall of famers have played at Hi Corbett Field, like Hank Aaron, Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Tony Gwynn, Willie Mays, Reggie Jackson, Nolan Ryan and Ted Williams, and parts of the 1989 classic movie “Major League” were filmed there.
Home sweet softball home
Like McKale Center, Arizona has enjoyed notable success at Rita Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium, the softball venue that also celebrated a milestone anniversary in 2013.
Hillenbrand opened in 1993 and has seen the UA lead the nation in attendance 10 times. The Wildcats, which went 31-3 at the friendly confines of Hillenbrand in 2014, are 614-72 there and 60-6 in NCAA Regionals.
In keeping with the construction theme, the Tucson Convention Center is also experiencing a renovation.
The TCC, home of Arizona hockey, is seeing a $6 million upgrade that is improving seating, lighting, concessions, restrooms, audio and adding a video board. Finally UA hockey fans can see the opposing net minder up close as they chant, “Hey goalie, you suck.”
The TCC, nicknamed the “Madhouse on Main Street,” is known for its rowdy fans. There is a stop on the Tucson Sun Link Modern Streetcar next to it so dorm dwellers can journey from the UA to the downtown arena and not have to worry about getting a ride.
—Follow James Kelley @JamesKelley520