After a year and a half of construction, The Pavilion at Ole Miss has officially become the new home for Rebel Hoops and a main topic of conversation around campus.
The $96.5 million arena opened in January with a sold-out crowd watching the men’s basketball team defeat Alabama.
The Pavilion’s price tag makes it the most expensive college basketball arena in the SEC, just ahead of Auburn’s $92.5 million coliseum built in 2010. The Pavilion is pricier than even the homes of basketball powerhouses such Duke University’s Cameron Indoor Stadium and the University of Kentucky’s Rupp Arena. Ole Miss basketball’s former home, affectionately called the Tad Pad, was built in 1966 and cost $1.8 million to build, which would translate into around $13.1 million today.
The Pavilion accommodates roughly 800 more spectators than its predecessor. The stadium’s 9,500-person capacity exceeds the 9,314 seats of Cameron Indoor Stadium, but falls short of Rupp’s 23,500-person arena.
Joe Swingle, associate athletics director for facilities and game operations, said The Pavilion provided the program an opportunity to introduce some needed upgrades.
“Tad Smith Coliseum was built in 1964 and has been a wonderful building, but it’s a little bit tired and it was time to build a new facility for our basketball programs,” Swingle said.
Features of the new arena include an 800-spot parking garage, Steak n’ Shake and Raising Cane’s restaurants and the largest center-hung video display in all of college sports.
Junior secondary math education major Alexandra Nelson said The Pavilion is a noticeable improvement from the aged Tad Pad.
“The Pavilion seems almost like the FedEx Forum in Memphis,” Nelson said. “Very professional looking and a lot bigger than the Tad Pad.”
Nelson said The Pavilion has brought not only a new look, but also a new attitude with it.
“I feel like students are taking more pride in how official-looking the Pavilion is,” Nelson said. “I’ve also seen more and more students attending games and being more interested in cheering on the players. There’s definitely been a difference in the fan atmosphere.”
Freshman journalism major Ashlee Smith said The Pavilion made an immediate impact on campus life.
“Before walking into the Pavilion, it just feels like home,” Smith said. “It just looks and feels like our arena. With the potential for the Pavilion to bring in concerts like Brad Paisley, I think [the Pavilion] is going to bring a lot of good things to Ole Miss.”