Back To Mac - Student Life Returns To Historic McArthur Court

May 2, 2014

For 84 years, the University of Oregon’s Mac Court, a.k.a. “The Pit,” was home to the school’s basketball teams, with nicknames including the Tall Firs and the Kamikaze Kids. It’s where Ducks went to register for classes. It hosted musical performances by the likes of Elvis, Frank Zappa and the grateful dead. Now, the building is being put to new use.

Students celebrate on the floor of McArthur Court.
Credit Amanda Butt

Music and laughter fill the halls of McArthur Court on a Tuesday afternoon. A basketball game could be about to start! But there's no team on the court. Instead, students are celebrating the temporary relocation of groups to Mac Court while the student union undergoes renovation.

Mac Court hosted its last basketball game in 2011. These days, the facility doesn’t see much use. If you stand in the middle of the court, the empty bleachers seem to go on forever. Bryan Haunert is the associate director of physical education and recreation. He's one of the people responsible for running the historic arena.

Haunert: “A lot of the students here have just gone to Matthew Knight arena for the games and really didn’t know what Mac Court was all about. So I think now that students are getting in there, probably learning more about the building, it probably is coming to life again which is exciting.”

Erin McConaghy, president of club sports executive committee does remember a time when games were played in the gym. For her, the move back to Mac brings fond memories.

Outside of the Club Sports office in McArthur Court.
Credit Amanda Butt

McConaghy: “Well, I went to high school in Oregon and we had our basketball high school championships here that I played in, and I’ve always been a Duck fan and I watched the Ducks when I was really young here. And so, it’s huge for me to be able to be here because I used to idolize who went to college here and especially who played on this court. So, I’m stoked to be in this building and just going and walking on the court every day.”

Thousands of people share memories of Mac Court, especially the athletes who played here. Jordan Kent graduated in 2006 and is a former three sport U of O athlete. He's just glad to see the building still stands on campus.  

Credit Amanda Butt

Kent: "I think you absolutely have to keep it in tact because there are so many people that have such a close and strong tie to it, historically speaking, that if you were to see it go down it would be like the same as ripping out the cemetery across the street. You just can't get rid of those two things." 

Mac Court and the E.M.U. have a long history together. In the 1920s, students needed a bigger basketball arena. At the same time, students wanted a central place on campus where they could hang out between classes. They began charging five dollars a term to build what would become McArthur court and Erb Memorial Union, the E.M.U.  

Dan Geiger is the E.M.U. renovation coordinator. He explains that these buildings were built with student money  for student use.

Geiger: “They built the basketball arena first and five dollars a term was a fair amount of money back then. A couple of other projects came up, we built Hayward Field and then World War II happened and nothing was being built at that time. So it took a while for that same energy and fun to get the student union built.”

Geiger and his team are rediscovering old features in the building to make it more accommodating and welcoming.

The McArthur Court Marquee lit up at night.
Credit Amanda Butt

Geiger: “One thing that we did which was pretty neat is that there’s a really old marquee on the building which hasn’t been lit in decades. And so one of our staff figured out how that marquee works and got it lit up. And it’s just kind of neat, it was a symbolic about revitalizing the building, just lighting up that marquee again. I think a lot of people have noticed that and that's kind of fun.”

Bryan Haunert says it's uncertain what will happen to Mac Court when the groups move out. Construction on the E.M.U will end in the summer of 2016.

In the meantime, the sign on Mac Court will remain lit at night.