Ahead of this summer’s move to the Sun Belt Conference, James Madison’s athletic facility upgrades continue. Monday, the school announced it began renovating JMU’s former basketball arena, the Convocation Center, into a multipurpose facility that will be home to the Dukes’ volleyball program.
JMU played home basketball games inside the building affectionately known as the Convo from 1982 to 2020 before opening the $140 million Atlantic Union Bank Center, which seats 8,500 for basketball, during the 2020-21 season.
“The JMU Convocation Center has been an important piece of our facilities footprint for 40 years,” JMU athletic director Jeff Bourne said in a statement released by the school. “With the opening of the Atlantic Union Bank Center, the Convo presented a unique opportunity to update and improve the overall experience for multiple sport programs. We were able to fit many pieces into the existing footprint of the building with this renovation project, with exciting outcomes for our student-athletes, coaches and support staff.”
The Dukes’ volleyball team currently calls Sinclair Gymnasium inside Godwin Hall home, but the new version of the Convocation Center will include a competitive volleyball arena expected to seat 900 fans and potentially expandable to 1,300.
Nielsen Builders won the bid to do the construction, which is expected to finish in the spring of 2023. The renovated Convo will also include configurations for three practice courts and an enhanced indoor training facility for track and field.
Office space and meeting rooms for cross country, field hockey, lacrosse, men’s soccer, women’s soccer, volleyball and track & field will also be part of the new layout, along with new locker rooms, sports medicine and training facilities, strength and conditioning rooms and academic advisory centers.
Each of those sports currently holds office space inside Godwin Hall or across a walkway at Bridgeforth Stadium. Multiple sources confirmed to the Daily News-Record the university plans to convert Godwin Hall’s primary use to an academic facility.
Godwin Hall sits adjacent to Bridgeforth Stadium, home of the JMU football team. An athletic department spokesperson reiterated on Monday’s Bourne’s previous statements that any potential expansion of the football stadium is not dependent on structural changes to Godwin Hall.
Bridgeforth currently seats approximately 25,000 fans, but the Dukes’ jump to the Football Bowl Subdivision has increased speculation the school could replace the aging east grandstand and increase capacity. JMU has announced no official plans for stadium expansion.
Renovations are also underway at Sentara Park, home to JMU’s soccer and lacrosse programs and the outdoor track facility. That project will add locker rooms, concession stands and other amenities to the stadium complex.