“Going to the Pan” was but a memory for sports enthusiasts when the old auditorium burned Wednesday. And for many who played or watched college basketball there, news that the Pan Pacific Auditorium was finally gone meant that a lot of memories also went up in smoke.
“It took a little bit out of me when I heard about it,” said Al Buch, a one-time UC Berkeley basketball standout who in 1959 beat UCLA with a last-second shot at the Pan Pacific.
In the days before the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, the Pan Pacific, Olympic and Shrine auditoriums were Southern California’s major indoor sports facilities. The 15,000-seat Sports Arena opened in 1959.
The Pan Pacific, completed in 1937, is best remembered by Southland sports fans as the site of many USC and UCLA basketball games for 20 years, Harlem Globetrotters games, Amateur Athletic Union basketball games, and college and minor league ice hockey.
“I have fond memories of those days, in the 1950s, of coming to L.A. on basketball trips, and staying at the Hollywood Knickerbocker Hotel,” said Buch, of Studio City. “The Pan was an intimate place. It only seated about 6,000 for basketball, but with an exciting game, the noise level was very high.”
Al Wesson, a former USC sports information director, remembers some bloody college ice hockey games at the Pan Pacific.
“USC and Loyola had a fierce ice hockey rivalry at the Pan years ago,” he said. “USC had a bunch of Canadians on the team, and Loyola had a bunch of Wisconsin kids. Notre Dame came out and played us (USC) one year. We had a coach, Arnold Eddy, who couldn’t even skate.”
Shrine, Olympic Fading
Time may be running out on two other old Los Angeles indoor sports facilities:
- The 5,500-seat Shrine Auditorium, built in the 1920s, where nearby USC once played basketball on the stage, faces an uncertain future.
- The 8,200-seat Olympic Auditorium, also built in the 1920s and still the only arena in America built exclusively for boxing, has been boarded up for more than a year. USC played basketball games there in the 1930s and 1940s.
The Pan Pacific was never UCLA’s home basketball court, but the school did play selected home games there from 1949 until 1959 because the building seated more than the old UCLA men’s gym. USC’s basketball teams played home games at the Pan Pacific from 1949 through 1959.