EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Oregon broke ground Saturday for its new $227 million basketball arena and announced a $5 million gift to the project from Athletic Director Pat Kilkenny.
The Matthew Knight Arena is named in honor of Nike co-founder Phil Knight's son, who died in a scuba-diving accident in 2004.
The new arena, scheduled to open in January 2011, will replace 82-year-old McArthur Court.
Among those attending the groundbreaking ceremony were Kilkenny, Knight, men's basketball coach Ernie Kent and former Oregon receiver Ahmad Rashad.
To recognize Kilkenny's contribution on behalf of his family, the arena's court will be named Kilkenny Court.
The University of Oregon released the following information about the event:
EUGENE, Ore. -- (Feb. 7, 2009) – 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 stepmother, 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 Championship 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 purchasing tickets are available online at www.godunks.net, the Web site devoted exclusively to the arena.