Located on the south eastern side of campus at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona, McKale Memorial Center was opened in February of 1973 and has been a staple of the community ever since. The athletic arena, although home to the Wildcats Basketball team of the Pac-12 conference, hosts numerous other events including women's volleyball games, school affiliated gatherings, and even features physical training and therapy facilities. Fans can catch a game in McKale Memorial Center featuring both Men's and Women's basketball, volleyball and gymnastics. McKale Memorial Center remains the main attraction in the Eddie Lynch Athletic Pavilion, which has undergone several renovations and additions over the past 10 years, and sits next to Arizona Stadium and the Hillenbrand Aquatics Center.
The opening of McKale Memorial Center in February of 1973 marked a new era in Wildcat basketball. After playing several games in front of crowds of a few thousand in Bear Down Gymnasium to open the 1972-73 season, it was recognized that the Wildcats' basketball venue, was outdated and in need of replacement. Thus planning for the new facility began in 1966. During construction, the Wildcats briefly considered playing some of its home schedule in the then-newly completed 8,000-seat arena at the Tucson Convention Center but eventually declined, remaining in Bear Down Gym until the new venue was ready. The new arena officially opened in February 1973 and the team moved to McKale and filled the upscale arena overnight with crowds over 11,000 from the beginning. The McKale Center was named in honor of J.F "Pop" McKale, a major athletic figure at U of A from 1914 to 1957. He was a standout coach and athletic director even at one time boasting the title of being the head coach of all of the university's athletic teams. He led the football team from 1914 to 1930, with an 80–32–6 record. It was McKale's first team that resulted in Arizona's teams being nicknamed "Wildcats." In 1914, Arizona's name meant very little in the college football world. Although they lost to Occidental College in Los Angeles 14–0, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times was so impressed with Arizona's effort that he wrote, "The Arizona men showed the fight of wild cats ...". Soon afterward, Arizona's student athletes were nicknames the Wildcats. Following a win over Rival, Arizona State, on February 26, 2000, the university athletic department honored longtime head coach Lute Olsen with a ceremony to name the McKale Center playing surface "Lute Olson Court." Less than a year later, during a memorial service in January 2001 for Olson's late wife, Bobbi, it was renamed, "Lute and Bobbi Olson Court" in recognition of the couple's impact on the university and the city of Tucson.
The McKale Memorial Center is most known as the home of the Arizona Wildcats Men's Basketball team. The team is the intercollegiate mens basketball program representing the University of Arizona. It competes in the Pac-12 conference of the NCAA Division I and is currently coached by Tommy Lloyd. The Wildcats won the 1997 NCAA National Championship behind the coaching of Hall of Famer Lute Olson, who went 589-187 in 24 seasons at the helm, and cemented themselves as a central focal point of Tucson. Arizona remains a premier west coach destination for basketball recruits and has even shifted to a dominant Women's Basketball program as well. Former UA women's basketball star and now head coach Adia Barnes led the Wildcats to the NCAA women's basketball National Championship game in the 2020-21 season, where the team lost a heartbreaker to Stanford 54-53. Part of the attraction for fans is the winning tradition that was quickly established in McKale. Arizona defeated WAC rival Wyoming, 87-69, in the first varsity event on Feb. 1, 1973, and went on to win 67 of the first 70 contests in McKale. Then, from 1987-1992, Arizona put together the 10th-best home court winning streak in NCAA history, winning 71 consecutive games in McKale and making tickets nearly impossible to find. By the time UCLA snapped the string on Jan. 11, 1992 with an 89-87 upset of the Cats, there was rarely an empty seat in McKale for any game. Nowadays, Arizona ranks eleventh all-time heading into the 2022–23 season with 1,884 wins and ranks tied for seventh by winning percentage at (.660). Arizona has spent 37 weeks at No. 1 in the AP Poll, which is ninth-most all-time; 29 weeks at No. 2, tied for eighth all-time; 158 weeks in the Top 5, seventh all-time; 313 weeks in the Top 10, sixth all-time; and 568 weeks in the top 25, seventh all-time
McKale Center Records
- First Game: Feb. 1, 1973; Arizona 87, Wyoming 69
- UA Record in Facility: 645–118 (.845)+
- Undefeated Seasons: 13 (1976, ‘77, ‘86, ‘88, ‘89, ‘90, ‘91, ‘98, ‘99, ‘11, ‘14, ‘15, '22)
- Longest Home Court Win Streak: 71, Feb. 14, 1987–Jan. 11, 1992
- Most Points Scored, Arizona: 127, Arizona vs Arizona State, Jan. 15, 1998
- Most Points Scored, Opponent: 110, Arizona State vs. Arizona, Feb. 17, 1973
- Biggest Winning Margin, Arizona: 64, Arizona (118) vs. Robert Morris (54), Dec. 28, 1996
- Biggest Winning Margin, Opponent: 30, BYU (99) vs. Arizona (69), Dec. 28, 2009
- Most Points Scored, Arizona Individual: 41, Al Fleming, vs. Detroit, Jan. 10, 1976
- Most Points Scored, Opponent: 49, Jimmer Fredette, BYU vs. Arizona, Dec. 28, 2009
+ record reflects 11 vacated victories during 2007–08 season due to NCAA infractions
Construction and Rennovation
In 2002, the Eddie Lynch Athletics Pavilion, a state-of-the-art medical and strength/conditioning facility for Wildcat student athletes, was completed and opened. The pavilion (which cost $14 million) was a 36,000-square-foot addition to the north end of McKale Center. The upper level has a 10,000-square-foot museum-like display area, open to the public, showcasing the history of Arizona Wildcat athletics. A new four-sided scoreboard with video replay screens was installed and hung from the center of the arena. Then, prior to the 2014-15 season, a major renovation added upgraded seating, hand rails, enhanced lighting, a new playing floor and a state-of-the-art, high-definition scoreboard. The new scoreboard features four 19’ x 11’ video screens totaling 836 square feet, which is more than two-and-half times larger than the previous board, a static ring on top for promotional opportunities and two LED rings. In addition, the renovation addressed amenities and upgrades that include men’s and women’s locker rooms, concessions and restrooms. The seating capacity has fluctuated through the 42 years of the buildings existence. McKale opened in 1973 with a capacity of 13,658, but the installation of chair-back seating in 1984 reduced that figure to 13,316. Elimination of all bleacher seating dropped the level to 13,124 in 1986 before additional seats were added in the period from 1988 to 2000 that pushed capacity to 14,545. After a renovation was completed prior to the 2014-15 season, current capacity stands at 14,655. The largest crowd in McKale history was the 15,176 who watched Arizona face New Mexico on January 14, 1976. The largest crowd in the Lute Olson era showed up for the 1997-98 home opener against Morgan State (14,672), the first home game after Arizona's National Championship. In December 2012, the university athletic department was given approval by the Arizona Board of Regents to select an architect to renovate the arena. The renovation would also include a club area, luxury seating, and more room for the athletics offices that occupy the McKale Center. The project was be completed in several phases from 2014 to 2017 at a cost of $80 million. McKale Center remained open during the construction process, with a majority of the work done outside of basketball season. The first phase of the renovation includes a brand new HD video scoreboard which was completed at the end of December 2013. Other parts of the first phase also included new seating, a new floor, an improved locker room area and expanded restrooms and concessions.
Though the McKale center seems like just a sporting venue, hidden in the hallways are 46 offices for 100+ employees and interns of Arizona Athletics. Some of these offices include:
The main office for the Athletic Director, Dave Heeke and Executive Senior Associate Dir. of Athletics, Erika Barnes, and their assistants.
The ticket office, which handles ticket sales and distribution for events held at the McKale Center, including basketball games and other special events.
The training rooms, medical facilities, and physical therapy offices within the McKale Center to provide medical care and rehabilitation services to athletes.
Press rooms, broadcast booths, and interview areas for media personnel covering sporting events held at the McKale Center.
The Event and Facility office is responsible for scheduling and coordinating events held at the McKale Center, as well as facility maintenance and logistics.
Guest Services handles guest inquiries, provide information, and assist with various services during events.
The box office is where patrons can purchase tickets in person.
The wildcat club is home to a few DO’s who help to sell and assist in season ticket purchases with season ticket holders, and other who donate to the University of Arizona Athletic Department.
Yearly Attendance & Record in McKale Center
Notable McKale Center Records:
- Most Points Scored by an Individual: 49, Jimmer Fredette, Brigham Young, 12/28/2009
- Most Points Scored in a Game (Team): 127, Arizona vs, Arizona State, 01/05/1998
- Fewest Points Allowed: 25, Washington State, 01/02/2014
- Highest Attendance: 15, 176, Arizona vs. New Mexico, 01/14/1976
- Longest Game: 3 Overtimes, Arizona vs. Utah, 02/23/1973 and UCLA vs. Dayton, 03/14/1974
Notable Men's Basketball Program Accomplishments:
- 75 NBA Draft Picks
- 33 NCAA Tournament Appearances
- 18 Sweet Sixteens
- 11 Elite Eights
- 4 Final Fours
- 1 National Championship
Notable current NBA players:
1. Deandre Ayton (Current Team: Phoenix Suns)
2. Aaron Gordon: (Current Team: Denver Nuggets)
3. Solomon Hill: (Current Team: Atlanta Hawks)
4. T.J. McConnell: (Current Team: Indiana Pacers)
5. Lauri Markkanen (Current Team: Cleveland Cavaliers)
6. Stanley Johnson (Current Team: Toronto Raptors)
7. Andre Iguodala (Current Team: Golden State Warriors)
8. Josh Green (Current Team: Dallas Mavericks)
9. Zeke Nnaji (Current Team: Denver Nuggets)
Notable current WNBA players:
1. Aari McDonald (Current Team: Atlanta Dream)
Current NBA Head Coaches:
1. Steve Kerr (Past Teams: Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs, Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns (executive position); Currently: Coach of the Golden State Warriors)
2. Luke Walton (Past Teams: Los Angeles Lakers (player and coach), Cleveland Cavilers, University of Memphis (coach), Golden State Warriors (interim head coach); Currently: Coach of the Sacramento Kings)