After 50 years in the Tad Smith Coliseum, the $1.8 million dollar facility was closed, as the $96 million Pavilion was christened as the new home of Rebel Basketball on January 7, 2016. In a year, the Pavilion has seen its share of special moments. For Senior Associate AD Joseph Swingle, you need not look any further than opening night for the best moment in the young building’s history.
“The best moment was definitely opening night,” Swingle said. “Coach Kennedy grabbing the mic and doing what he did after that game, thanking the fans and the energy that created was special. That was spur of the moment, and it proved that we now have an atmosphere that is difficult for any team to come in and play and we are proud of that.”
The Pavilion was the centerpiece of the Forward Together campaign which began back in 2011 which aimed to create an upgraded experience for Ole Miss athletics and its fans. The original plan was for the new arena to be across the street closer to the Turner Center, but the decision was ultimately changed to the current location. The Pavilion was created with the vision that it would become the “front door” for athletics at Ole Miss. Placed right next to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, the Pavilion is one of the nation’s best venues for College basketball, a sentiment echoed by Athletic Director Ross Bjork.
“I truly believe that we have built the most unique and finest on-campus arena in the entire country, and everyone in the Ole Miss family should be extremely proud,” Bjork said at the Pavilion’s opening.
Since its opening, the Pavilion has seen 2,790 Rebel points scored in the 37 total men’s and women’s games played in the building. Over 176,000 fans have come and gone from the brand-new arena, with the building reaching its 9,500 person capacity for the opening victory against Alabama. The arena provided a new beginning for Ole Miss basketball, a long time coming for the program.
“The Tad Pad was a great building, but it had lived its life, and it was definitely time to move on,” Swingle said. “We wanted to give Coach Kennedy and Coach Insel a new beginning. Kennedy as our winningest head coach and Insel just getting started, we wanted to give them the type of facility that they truly deserved.”
The Ole Miss campus is a beautiful place, and any new building will be compared to the iconic structures that stand tall across the landscape. The 225,000 square foot Pavilion was designed with that in mind, striking on the outside and inside offering the southern hospitality Ole Miss is known for.
“We wanted the Pavilion to be perfect for what the university needed, and we feel that it really is. The building embodies everything that Ole Miss is,” Swingle said. “Everyone knows Ole Miss for our southern hospitality, and that’s what we’re all about especially with the amount of premium seating the Pavilion has been able to offer our fans.”
The Pavilion doesn’t only open it’s doors for basketball but as a useful space on the Ole Miss campus. With the addition of Steak & Shake and Raising Canes in the C-spire speed zone, the Pavilion is on of campus’ most popular eating spots.
“We wanted to make sure this building felt like a part of campus; somewhere students could come and use it all the time, not just when there was a basketball game going on,” Swingle said.
Other than a small foot traffic flow issue upon opening, The first year of the Pavilion has gone according to plan. Minor additions to the locker room have taken place, but there are no plans to alter anything in the building for years to come.
Ole Miss Athletics is home to many traditions and experiences that people come from all over to see. The Grove sets a lofty expectation for what people expect from an Ole Miss sporting event, and the Pavilion is a huge step in creating an entirely new basketball experience here in Oxford.
“We hope that we continue to sell out and have a great atmosphere. We wanted basketball to become an experience that people talked about like they would with the Grove or right field at Swayze Field. We wanted to close that gap and provide a great product on the floor and a great venue,” Swingle said. “We hope that it will continue to be a great building for the campus and the city for many years to come.”
Steven Gagliano is a writer for HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.