"The Convocation Center will help us grow our brand and place us in a position for relevance on a national stage."
-Jeff Bourne, Athletics Director
With the unprecedented growth experienced by JMU and the Shenandoah Valley the time is now for a facility to showcase and build upon the economic vibrancy of the region. The 8,500-seat structure will play host to a myriad of events annually, including basketball games, public speakers, university convocation and graduation, high school graduation ceremonies, concerts, conventions, trade shows and family entertainment options.
"Athletics is a significant component of the outward story of James Madison University and this complex is a key priority for us during our capital campaign."
-Jonathan R. Alger, President
The Convocation Center is a major initiative in the Madison Plan and cornerstone project of the Athletics Strategic Plan. The goal of the new facility is to drive market exposure on a regional and national level by convening large audiences around signature games, events, speakers and conferences.
"This is one piece of our continued efforts to make us a viable option to compete at the highest level of Division I athletics."
-Jeff Bourne, Athletics Director
The Convocation Center will be located at the corner of University Boulevard and Carrier Drive, adjacent to the East Campus Dining Hall and the Festival Conference and Student Center. The arena will be the largest event space in the Shenandoah Valley and includes a club level, private suites and hospitality spaces, along with a pre-event space for JMU students. The arena will also have cutting-edge technology in a four-sided video scoreboard and a 270° ribbon board.
The basketball operations facility will be adjacent to the arena and be the home of the JMU basketball programs. The space will allow for the programs to have a location to practice and train when the main floor occupied for other events.
The operations facility will house first-class offices, locker rooms, training spaces, meeting rooms and a full-court practice facility with six shooting stations. These facilities will allow for the basketball programs to remain on the cutting edge and maximize overall improvement.
"It's critical that our supporters make commitments so this project becomes a reality."
-Jeff Bourne, Athletics Director
A new Convocation Center is contingent on private support. Your investment will help shape the scope of this state-of-the-art venue. The future of this facility depends on you.
The university has established a fundraising goal of $12 million, and all support must be secured before construction on the project can begin. No formal timeline has been set.
Why does JMU need a new Convocation Center?
In order to fulfill the mission of JMU Athletics, a new Convo is required to contribute to an enhanced student, and student-athlete, experience. This facility will be an asset to the university and a community showplace for the entire Shenandoah Valley. The facility will have patron amenities and comforts, which will lead to higher attendance numbers for all venue events. In addition, the current facility does not meet the needs of the basketball programs, particularly in regards to training and workout facilities, locker rooms, offices and practice space. Further improvements are needed in the areas of technology, ingress/egress, hospitality areas, media space, patron comfort, game day atmosphere (videoboard/sound system) and seating sightlines.
What are the planned uses for the arena, both for athletics and the university as a whole?
As a university asset, the new Convo will be the home for the men's and women's basketball programs along with university graduations and other student gatherings. As this facility will be a regional showplace, it will draw additional events to campus to enhance the overall student experience – a trademark of the mission of JMU Athletics.
How does it fit athletics/university strategic planning?
The new Convo is a central priority of The Madison Plan as well as Engaged in Excellence, JMU Athletics Strategic Plan, and is the primary fundraising project for JMU Athletics.
How does this facility impact the prospect of a move to an FBS conference?
At which time JMU is offered an invitation to an FBS-affiliated league, a thorough and thoughtful recommendation will be made to the JMU Board of Visitors. No such invitation has been extended. The new Convocation Center is about providing the highest level experience for our student-athletes and general student population.
There have been many recent athletics projects (Bridgeforth Stadium Expansion, Veterans Memorial Park, University Park), why so much emphasis on athletics?
Athletics is a vital part of the college experience and a common way for alumni to stay engaged with the university after graduation. New and enhanced facilities improve the quality of the current student-athlete experience and provide comfort and amenities in which to engage alumni of all ages. With the new and current construction being prioritized for academics (ISAT, etc.) and student experience (UREC expansion), the athletics facilities had become antiquated.
What is the project timeline, including completion of drawings, beginning of construction, and ready for use?
The construction timeline will begin after the private support goal ($12M pledged/$3M given) is met.
What is the total cost?
What is the location of the building?
At the northwest corner of Carrier Drive and University Boulevard on East Campus (across Carrier Drive from E-Hall).
The master plan from a few years ago showed the building at the old softball location, what changed?
The current location has been selected in conjunction with campus planning to better address traffic ingress/egress and the opportunity to include a parking garage that will benefit campus as a whole.
What will happen to the old Convo and parking?
The university is examining several options for the future use of the current Convo. The final decision has not been made.
What type of premium seating will the facility have?
While final numbers will be determined during the design phase, the current plans call for roughly 600 club seats and 10 private suites, seating 10-12 patrons each. There will also be courtside seats on the floor for donors.
What are plans for student seating?
The students are a critical part of the gameday experience. We are exploring different options for lower bowl seating to further engage our students in order to enhance their positive impact on the game.
What is the recruiting impact of this building, both for student-athletes and the overall student body?
This building will be an asset to campus and will impress all potential students and student-athletes. JMU is attractive to many of the finest basketball prospects due to our student life, academic reputation and the overall beauty of our campus, among other reasons. Several of these recruits who wanted to come to JMU decided to play at other schools in large part because of the state of the current facility when compared to other interested universities. Erecting a state-of-the-art facility will significantly close that gap. Today's consumers, which includes students, require a top-tier experience when they come into an arena, and this facility will meet those needs.
Why was it important to include a practice gym?
Similar to the Forbes Center and its rehearsal spaces, the practice gym will provide our student-athletes with a classroom in which to develop skills used to represent the university in competition. This space will also ensure that our basketball teams can practice with a regular schedule when other events occupy the main arena floor.
How does the new state law capping the student fee for athletics impact this building project and its financing?
House Bill 1897 will have no impact upon this project or the financing for the facility.
How can I track the progress of the project?
Periodic updates can be found at JMUConvo.com
How can interested donors get involved?
Call the Duke Club at 540-568-6461. To learn more, please click here.