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Friday, May 29, 2015

VIDEO: Ole Miss’ multi-purpose arena gets a name, signals ‘commitment to excellence’

Construction on the new multi-purpose arena at Ole Miss technically began back in the spring. Now there’s a name to go with it.

The $85 millon arena, which is scheduled to open in December 2015, will be called The Pavilion at Ole Miss, athletic director Ross Bjork said at a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday morning. Standing in front of a freshly dug hole where the building will eventually stand, Bjork explained that the name was a natural fit.

“The Pavilion at Ole Miss is really a reflection of its name, a large building used for public exhibits and sporting events for the Ole Miss family,” Bjork said.

The facility will host graduations, orientations, concerts and volleyball games as well as serve as a hospitality hub on football gamedays, Bjork said, but the arena will get most of its use as the new home for the Rebels’ men’s and women’s basketball teams. The project marks the end of C.M. “Tad” Smith Coliseum and gets Ole Miss’ hoops facilities up to speed with the rest of the Southeastern Conference.

“What a great day for Ole Miss athletics and for our university as a whole,” men’s basketball coach Andy Kennedy said. “This is the last step to truly creating a gameday atmosphere for basketball — both men’s and women’s — that we’ve never had before.”

The arena is part of the Forward Together campaign that was launched before Bjork was hired in 2012 to improve facilities around campus and fund new projects, including the construction of a new parking garage and the expansion of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium’s North end zone.

The campaign has raised $112.5 million of its $150 million goal. Bjork said the name of a donor or corporate sponsor that can help Ole Miss cut into the remaining balance will be added to the beginning of the arena’s title.

“It will be the ‘Your Name Here’ Pavilion at Ole Miss,” Bjork said.

Kennedy had some fun with the idea, calling the facility the Andy Kennedy Pavilion at Ole Miss during his remarks.

“You survive here eight years, you’ve got to get your name on something, right?” Kennedy joked.

Time is running out for people to poke fun at the Rebels’ lack of a top-notch facility.

“This is a university that’s committed to excellence in everything we do,” Ole Miss Chancellor Dan Jones said. “We are making progress on the promise of excellence at the university, and this big hole back here is a big commitment to excellence.”

Watch Bjork and Kennedy talk about the new arena — and the impact it will have have on the recruiting trail — in the videos below.

See Friday’s edition of the EAGLE for more from Thursday’s ceremony. (July 31, 2014)

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