LOS ANGELES - UCLA Facilities carpenters said it was a "nerve-wracking" job to preserve the 1980 center court from Pauley's floor.

In all but one way, preparing the center jump circle of Pauley Pavilion’s old wooden floor for display inside the new Pauley was just like any other job for Robert Wesley, a carpenter in UCLA Facilities Management.

Lead carpenter Daniel Bethel, left, gave carpenter Robert Wesley, right, the job of preserving Pauley's center circle.

Lead carpenter Daniel Bethel, left, gave carpenter Robert Wesley, right, the job of preserving Pauley's center circle.

Despite years of experience on similar projects, Wesley said, “I was nervous working on this. This was the same as any job, except I could not screw it up, because it’s history. Normally, I can repair anything with more material, but this didn’t come with spare parts.”

When construction began in 2010 for the renovation of Pauley, workers sliced the painted center circle out of the 32-year-old floor, cutting it into two 20-by-20-foot rectangular portions. They sent it to the Facilities’ Carpenter Shop, where lead carpenter Daniel Bethel gave Wesley, “carpenter extraordinaire,” the job of preserving the historic floorboards, where many tip-offs have taken place.

“The saying in our trade is ‘Measure twice, cut once.’ Well, for this I measured a lot of times,” Wesley said.

Half of the circle is now on display in the newly reopened Pauley, and the other half is preserved for the future. But it was fragile when it arrived, Bethel said.

Crosspieces held the floorboards together, but at the edges, the tongue-in-groove floorboards could slip out.

Crosspieces held the floorboards together, but at the edges, the tongue-in-groove floorboards could slip out.

The tongue-in-groove floorboards had cross-pieces but no backing to keep them together, and were built with room to expand in hot weather and shrink in cold weather. That’s good for walking on, but loose and wiggly when standing upright for display, Bethel said.

“It was kind of flexing around, and we were worried about it coming apart,” Bethel said.

“Oh, god,” Wesley said, cringing at the memory.

“It would have ripped the paint,” Bethel said. “It would never have looked right again.”

To protect the center circle, Wesley modified a large clamp to hold the floorboards together. Next, he had to glue the two half-circles back together – and then cut them apart again in a different direction to get “UCLA” in one piece. In the original piece, the circle was cut between the “UC” and the “LA,” so that each half-circle read “LA UC.”

Workers who removed the circle from Pauley cut it to read

Workers who removed the circle from Pauley cut it to read "LA*UC." Wesley glued it back together and cut it in half again to read "UCLA."

Next came the tricky part: Wesley removed the cross pieces on the back.

“It was a little nerve-wracking,” he said, demonstrating with a bit of leftover floor how easily the inch-thick maple boards can slide apart. He secured them by adding a wooden backing, then touched up the front, carefully working out scuffs. Finally, he built a display stand, using surplus floorboards from the same historic 1980 Pauley floor.

Facilities craftsmen also built the display cases in Pauley where half of the center jump circle now rests, Bethel said.

“Pretty much anything to do with wood, we probably had something to do with it,” Bethel said. “We do cabinetry, counters, bookcases, shelving, custom storage and more. We build all over campus: in libraries, offices, medical buildings — anywhere they need custom furniture, like special shelving for delicate equipment or custom shelving to maximize space.”

Many other wood details in the new Pauley concourse were designed by the facilities’ Carpenter Shop, including the display of the “Nell and John Wooden” court piece. In the Morgan Center, one of the carpenters’ displays includes seats from the old Pauley mounted on another section of the old floor, said Randy Pelow, senior superintendent of the Carpenter Shop.

Bruins come to the shop for custom work, or even for pieces they could buy elsewhere, because the carpenters do higher-quality, better-priced work, said Kelly Schmader, the assistant vice chancellor of Facilities Management.

“These are true craftsmen,” Schmader said. “They have so much talent.”

Despite the historic nature of the project, Wesley said, in many ways it wasn’t that unusual.

“The center circle means a lot to so many people, but this job was just another day for us,” Wesley said. “We do a lot of projects — odd projects — because no one can do it but us.”

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