In 1982, JMU completed construction on its brand new Convocation Center, the first building to be constructed on the other side of I-81.
The venue was built to host men’s and women’s basketball, indoor track and a multitude of other student and public events. With a seating capacity of over 7,500, it was the epicenter of many earth-trembling basketball games, but now, some 38 years later, it’s time for a change.
Located behind the Festival Conference Center lies the skeleton framework of the Atlantic Union Bank Center. The new arena will have a base seating capacity of 8,500 and will be able to grow to over 10,000 with peripheral seats. The Atlantic Union Bank Center will be the new face of JMU basketball and will provide its athletes with a facility that rivals many opponents’ arenas.
Some of the amenities players and coaches will be able to enjoy include a separate practice gym with six different shooting stations, a strength and conditioning training area, a designated hydrotherapy area and coaches’ offices with conference rooms.
But while the teams might be excited to move to a new home, the location they’re leaving behind is filled with endless nostalgia. Men’s basketball head coach Louis Rowe, who was a JMU basketball player himself from 1993 to 1995, won the CAA Tournament in 1994.
“I have a lot of really great memories here, but I’m excited for the future … It’s honestly much needed, and it’ll be a great addition to the community, to our athletic program and to the campus,” Rowe said. “I transferred here and got an opportunity. So, that’s my fondest memory at the Convo is that this is where I got my opportunity.”
While the new arena will have all the shiny bells and whistles, the one thing it won’t have immediately are memories. The Convo built almost four decades of stories and conference titles.
JMU women’s basketball head coach Sean O’Regan remembers big games in the Convo like the game against Syracuse in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament, Virginia Tech last year and a win over Virginia.
“It’s difficult because I think for everybody on the outside is saying that it’s going to be so much better and it’s going to help us so much with recruiting,” O’Regan said. “But for me, there is such a factor of nostalgia of the games that we’ve won here in the last 12 years, the memories that I have. That part will be tough to let go.”