I’ll never forget the first time I saw a game at McArthur Court at the University of Oregon.
I was a teenager with overly gelled hair and braces, and my Dad took me to see the Ducks square off against Stanford.
As you walked into the building, you got the strong sense of a high school basketball game, with cramped hallways and the prevalent smell of popcorn drifting through them. Climbing the creaky wooden stairs to the upper levels, you could hear the noise of the crowd actually reverberating through the walls.
I distinctly remember our view of the court being slightly obstructed by the overhang of the upper deck, and having to crane my neck to see properly. The seats were rickety and hard, it was hot and rustic smelling. And guess what, I had a great time.
I attended several other games there before I finally arrived as a student, and let me tell you it is a place you cannot fully appreciate until you’ve seen the action with the Pit Crew.
The high-school style bleachers are right on top of the playing floor, with no press tables, girders, or trenches separating you from the floor. If you were seated in the first row, your feet were on the same floor on which the game was being played.
The architecture of the place was truly something to behold, and like many had noted before, it really was like a miniature version of the famous Boston Garden.
But what made the biggest impact was the way the crowd took over the building. When the fans were celebrating, the arena itself was shaking. In the student section when we’d jump up and down, the bleachers would wobble violently and it has been said the players could feel the floor vibrating.
There were no fancy sound systems or LED jumbotrons, just the enthusiasm of the fans. The layout of the bleachers was so vertical that from the third level you were literally looking straight down on the game. It truly was “The Pit”.
Mac Court still sits in it’s same spot on campus next to the cemetery, and is used for a variety of sporting events despite its over 100-year age. In 2018 my friend and I went to Eugene for a game at Matthew Knight Arena but we parked up by Mac Court. I noticed that the doors were open and naturally I took a look inside. It was hosting what appeared to be some high school volleyball. It was great to be inside the building again.
But what was truly special was when we returned to my car after the game. The doors to Mac Court were still open, as were the doors to the floor, but this time there was not a soul to be found. My friend and I walked in and I was able to walk all over the court in a completely empty arena. It was surreal and an experience I’ll never forget. I remember standing on the right side hoop off in the right corner and saying, “this is where Aaron Brooks hit the game-winning shot to beat no.1 UCLA!”
Though it was so peacefully quiet, I could still hear the roar of the crowd and the noise of the band in my head.
Matthew Knight Arena is truly top of the line, and the success Altman has brought to it makes it a feel-good place for any Duck fan.
But McArthur Court was, and is, just something different. If you have the time during your next campus visit, go walk by it and appreciate it. Pull up your best memories.
And maybe, just maybe, you’ll luck out as I did and the doors will be standing open.