Problems Linger for Haas

Tell Gavin McMeeking he wouldn't have any place to live if it weren't for the construction worker at [email protected]





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Back in the good old days, when there were peons, and knights, and lords, and kings, the average commoner spent his everyday life mucking around in filth. If he was really lucky, he got to spend his life toiling on the building of a massive cathedral, which took hundreds of years to be completed.

Nowadays, we here in America have relegated all that tough-life stuff to foreign soil, or at least to the Central Valley. But there remains in America a select elite who continue that tradition of building big stuff. They're called construction workers.

I envy them. I envy them bad. In all seriousness, the life of a construction worker is the sort of life I wish I could have. There's nothing like a job where you get to work with cool power tools, and when it rains, you usually don't have to even show up at work, because, like, dude, it's raining.

But perhaps the best thing about being a construction worker is being able to take as much time as you want to finish something. Like your sandwich at lunch.

So, with all of modern humankind's advances, it still takes a while to make big buildings. They don't take centuries to be completed, but they take several years.

Take Haas Pavilion for example. It's doing its best impression of a modern-day gothic cathedral. Last year, the building was just up-and-running at the start of the hoops season. A fan wandering around the barren wasteland of the upper, interior corridors at the start of the season could have discovered a vast range of discarded caulking tubes and old rolls of blue paint tape.

Last week we discovered that the building wouldn't be completed in time for Midnight Madness.

It's easy to just call the delays associated with Haas a $55 million screw-up. Or to call it a badly mismanaged project that hasn't delivered what it promised.

But why don't you try renovating an arena, nearly doubling the seating capacity, while modernizing the existing structure, keeping it safe in a dangerous earthquake area and appealing to the needs of fans, the university and the teams it houses.

When the scoreboard is up and the landscaping is finished, Haas will truly be the Haas that Cal deserves. It already proved itself to be a superb basketball arena during last year's men's and women's basketball seasons. Its secondary task of housing numerous sports-related offices has already been realized, and the new offices for coaches are pretty cool.

So as far as the building is concerned, Haas Pavilion is well on its way toward arena nirvana. But looking past the concrete and steel and wiring of the goliath, there's trouble.

A lot of the games last season lacked the energy that is so characteristic of most big-time college hoops arenas. Alumni didn't show up at many of the games, with empty chair-backs an all-too-common sight for most contests. The Bench was criticized and the Bears' home arena wasn't as imposing to visitors as it should have been.

Part of the problem is that the place has less atmosphere than Fresno. In just one year, there hasn't been time for fans to start up any traditions unique to the Pavilion. The die-hards from the Harmon days are all stuck on the freeway on their way to work. The link between the two worlds was severed by the New Arena days.

The new row of chair-backs between the student sections and the floor won't go far in helping things either. It's bad for just about everybody but the university's accountant. It's bad for the students and the Bench - nearly one in the same - because it pushes them further from the action.

But wait, aren't the students only being moved back a few feet?

Ah, yes, my plucky little second personality, that's true, but while the physical distance is small, the psychological distance is much bigger with a wall of geriatrics between the action and the students.

It's bad for the folks in the chair-backs because it puts them in a war zone of bad language, excessive yelling, pushing, shoving, jumping and the like.

But won't it be better for die-hard Cal fans who want to be closer to the action?

What? Sorry I couldn't hear you. Somebody keeps hitting me in the back of the head with a trumpet, somebody spilled popcorn in my hair and that one punk kid took my sweater! Hey! You! Punk-ass! Give me back my sweater!

Finally, it's bad for the team itself because it takes the most animated and disruptive - and therefore the most effective at bothering the other team - and puts a kinder, gentler, wealthier fan closest to the visiting team.

Well, what's a better way to get better money out of Haas' prime seating locations? Or are you just going to be some snide cynic and just criticize all the time without ever offering a solution?

You bet your last beer in Fresno I am.

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