Chancellor Dan Jones called them extraordinary days for The University of Mississippi, as the athletics program and university move forward together and build their shared dream of excellence.
Once a vision, the new basketball arena, which will officially be named The Pavilion at Ole Miss, became more of a reality with a groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday.
“Today is ceremonial, but it also shows it’s a reality,” Athletics Director Ross Bjork said. “We have seen the construction fence, the dirt being taken out and the parking garage up, but you have to celebrate a milestone like this. Today was about the ceremony and the reality, but it was also bringing the Ole Miss community together and having our student-athletes see it firsthand.”
Once completed, The Pavilion at Ole Miss will not only be a destination point for the Ole Miss men’s and women’s basketball programs, but for the entire athletics department and university.
“We’re going to have a lot of excellence here,” Jones said. “We’re going to win a lot of basketball games. We’re going to have a lot of good convocations here for students. Parents are going to see their children graduate from this university. Students who come here to look at the university are going to have a great place to convene to begin their campus tours.”
“Our students, faculty, staff, alumni, family, friends and visitors love being on this campus, and so our vision was to create a front door along All-American Drive that would be a capstone for Ole Miss Athletics,” Bjork said. “It’s a destination point for many things that can happen on this campus, and it’s also close to the heart of the campus. The Pavilion at Ole Miss will be a reflection of its name as a large building used for public exhibit and sporting events for the Ole Miss family.”
The new arena, Bjork said, is a commitment to excellence with facilities that speaks to greatness in recruiting and fan experience and a huge statement for the athletics program that shows they’re healthy financially to continue growing and building.
“From a game day experience standpoint and all the things that you are asking from donors, we finally have the opportunity to provide them something that equates to the other sports on this campus,” men’s basketball head coach Andy Kennedy said. “From a recruiting standpoint, it gives us the opportunity to say, ‘You have everything you need to be successful as it relates to basketball.’ ”
“It’s great, not only for us, but for everyone on campus,” women’s basketball head coach Matt Insell said. “For us in terms of recruiting and walking into a new building, we go on the road and play in a lot of nice facilities and our girls are always wowed, but now teams are going to be wowed by our facilities because it’s going to be one of the best on-campus arenas in the country.”
Bjork announced that the Forward Together capital campaign has reached the $112.5 million mark, on the way to its $150 million goal, which included the $85 million set aside for the new arena.
Ole Miss will continue to aggressively pursue adding a name in front of the word “Pavilion,” whether it’s an individual donor or a corporate sponsor, to work toward bridging the $37.5 million gap.
“Days like this help,” said Bjork of fundraising. “We can take this step, get this project going. We’re under construction and ready to be open by December 2015. It allows us to start focusing on that design process.
“It’s all additive. The way our campaign works is one project fuels another. A gift for one project fuels another. The more we can build and the more we can add to that $112 (million), it helps. We have some pieces that we hope we can get construction on after the season. The next round of announcements in our building phase is what happens to that north end zone.”
To learn more about donating to the campaign or securing seats in Ole Miss’ various athletic venues, fans are encouraged to go to ForwardTogetherRebels.com, or contact the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation at 662-915-7159.
–Ole Miss Sports Information