Despite the cancelation of the football season, the new basketball arena is still scheduled to open its doors to the public for the 2020-21 JMU men’s and women’s season.
The Dukes’ new men’s basketball head coach Mark Byington and women’s head basketball coach Sean O’Regan gave an inside look of the arena to the community in a video provided by JMU Athletics. There are many new and fresh places in the arena. Here are the top five for The Breeze.
1. Team video room
In the comfort of their new Theater-type seats, the players will be in this space for scouting reports and film work.
“This is going to be my favorite room,” Byington said in the video. “This is the basketball classroom.”
Intimacy is something the new team video room brings, Assistant Athletic Director for Communications Kevin Warner said. Before, the men’s team had to rent out a room in the Convocation Center and the women’s team had a makeshift room of their own, but the new video room will allow better analysis and team meetings.
“The scouting part of preparing for games is something I think the public may not always be aware of,” Warner said. “A lot of time and energy goes into both reviewing their own players and how they can improve from their own performance but also to look at game film of coming opponents.”
2. Band seating
O’Regan commented in the video that the band section could grow because of its size. They can bring the soul and fire out of the Dukes on the court when playing and cheering.
“You want them as close as possible,” O’Regan said in the video. “They have won some games for us; I promise you that.”
Byington said in the video that he’d been a part of the visiting team against the Dukes before and that he remembers how the music was blasting from the band section. He said he knows how good they are.
“I’m glad they’re on my side now,” Byington said in the video.
The JMU Pep Band has been an important part of the basketball game experience for decades, Warner said, and he emphasizes how that will continue. Warner said he knows that both the men’s and women’s team would tell anyone that the pep band makes a huge difference.
“Their [the JMU’s Pep Band] location [is] in close proximity to that visiting team’s bench,” Warner said. “It’s also right next to where the JMU players will run under the court from the locker rooms; it’ll be a really great experience to tie that all together.”
3. Practice court
Byington and O’Regan said in the video they’re both happy they can see the practice court from their office and that Byington even thinks recruits' families could watch practice from the balcony facing this court.
“This is a total game changer to me,” O’Regan said in the video. “I love this.”
Having to rely on the one basketball court at the Convocation Center, UREC or Memorial Gym will be no more for the Dukes.
“The best part of the practice court is just having one more place for the teams to prepare,” Warner said. “Having both the game court and the practice court will allow them to have some more options in scheduling practice times; that in turn benefits the academic schedule for the student athletes because they might have different class times that weren’t available before.”
4. Academic Success Center
This center can truly bring more success to the players' academics. They have access to study halls and their tutors within feet of the basketball court, unlike before.
“We had to rent out the Duke Club room to do study hall before and now you’ve got tutor rooms up here,” O’Regan said in the video. “It’s like a one-stop shop.”
This center was built to ensure success for the student athletes on and off the court, Warner said.
“There was space, but it wasn’t really constructive space for their academic success, and now they’ll have some more dedicated space — they can get away from everybody else [and] focus on academics,” Warner said. “They could go put some shots up in the morning and go focus on some academic work for a little bit maybe before their classes start.”
5. Club and suites
The new additions to the basketball game experience are the clubs and suites that are available for eating, drinking, department meetings, hosting outside speakers, Dukes Lead programs, events with student athletes and of course watching the Dukes play some ball, Byington and O’Regan said in the video.
“That’s big time for the donors,” O’Regan said in the video. “You couldn’t do it without them.”
At the Convocation Center, there was a hospitality center but it was small, tucked away in the building and it took more effort to leave your seat to get to that space if one wanted to go back during halftime, Warner said.
“It’s not like anything you would see at bigger venues both in our state and nationally,” Warner said. “VCU, Old Dominion, Virginia, they all kind of have a premium experience for their higher level donors, and we have not really had much that we could offer, so this is pretty significant to be able to give that experience to our donors. This is a really big addition to the basketball experience for JMU Athletics.”
Warner said there will be a Student Club Room in the new arena that can be used for pregame experiences such as contests, bringing a basketball coach out to speak to the students, pizza parties or even bringing in a sponsor to cater a meal. After this pregame experience, these students could walk right to their seats adjacent to the room.
Warner also said how there will be a restaurant in the Atlantic Union Bank Center called “Tenders. Love. Chicken” that's open throughout the week to students as another dining option on the east side of campus.
The clock is ticking as we get closer to when the Atlantic Union Bank Center opens its doors to a new basketball experience.
Contact Andrew Oliveros at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.